“When clouds look like horsetails, rain or snow will come in three days.” Every culture around the world has its own weather sayings that are a part of daily life. The weather is always a topic of discussion, especially for teachers, we keep a close watch on the weather for daily outdoor recess, but most of all, we love a “snow day.” We might be a little superstitious around snow, one fellow teacher makes a soup that has resulted in a heavy snowfall. After a particularly long week it has been jokingly suggested that it’s time to make “snow soup.”
After the mild winter of 2023, meteorologists predicted a very snowy 2024. Many work colleagues reference The Farmer’s Almanac’s prediction of snow through April. We have four extra days built into our school calendar for snow days, we’ve used one. As I look at the weather channel’s forecast, the last days of February and the beginning of March seem very mild. I can’t imagine snow in April, especially when everyone has vacations planned for June and the thought of extending the school year seems brutal.
According to Folklore, Ember Days are an ancient method of predicting the weather, they foretell the weather for the next three months. Ember Days coincide with the four seasons, they occur on successive Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Ember Days in 2024 are celebrated on February 21, 23, and 24; May 22, 24,and 25; September 18, 20, and 21; and December 18, 20, and 21. February 21 forecasts the weather for March; February 23 for April, and February 24 for May.
Ember Days also focus our attention on the blessings of nature, we give thanks for the blessings we’ve received and also remind ourselves of our need for penance and grace. The roots of Ember Days go back to the Old Testament. The book of Zechariah describes an ancient Jewish practice of fasting four times a year.
It is believed that Ember Days observances date back to the time of Pope Leo I in the 5th century, when observers would thank God for the gifts of nature, embrace those gifts in moderation, and assist the needy. Pope Gregory VII expanded the observance of Ember Days making it a large part of the Catholic faith. It is said that Ember Days may have been created in response to the excessive celebrations that surrounded the pagan festivals in Rome. Ember Days can be thought of as mini-Lent with some fasting and abstinence to refocus spiritually.
The Ember Days this month were a little warmer than typically predicted by meteorologists for the end of February, which must mean that March, April, and May will have higher temperatures. It is suggested that we are to step outside and observe the weather on each of the Ember Days. It was a sunny day on February 21 so according to folklore, March is going to be sunny. It rained all day on February 23 so April will be rainy. February 24 was a mix of early rain in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon, so using Ember Days’ philosophy, May will have rainy and sunny days. Nothing here suggests more snow.
Pennsylvania Dutch proverbs and sayings have a deep connection to Ember Days. Edwin Fogel, after researching Ember Days, wrote the book: Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Germans. In his book, Fogel recounts beliefs that people born on Ember Days can see ghosts, that rain on an Ember Day is followed by three weeks of rain, and that washing on an Ember Day is unlucky. Fogel goes on to say that; as it rains in March, so it rains in June. Thunder in March brings a fruitful year. If the wind on the first day of spring is out of the north, little fine weather should be expected until July.
Step into your yard, a nearby field, or go for a hike and look around for Mother Nature’s weather signs. Extra bushy squirrels’ tails and a very thick, black coat of a woolly worm, are a couple of signs of a harsh winter. Due to leap year, February got an extra day and spring is early this year, March 19. My daffodils and crocuses are reliable predictors of spring and they are close to blooming. Many of us who want to be sure it’s going to rain are forced to go back to the old-time reliable method of painful arthritis and aching joints that indicate wet weather.
The Old Farmers Almanac first published in 1792 includes many anecdotal weather forecast tips. Before modern meteorology, folks watched the skies to forecast the weather. Many proverbs are based on a certain truth; for example; “A halo around the Moon predicts wet or stormy weather.” A halo around the Moon usually indicates an advancing warm front, which means precipitation. For centuries, farmers and sailors-people whose livelihoods depended on the weather relied on lore to forecast the weather. They quickly connected changes in nature with rhythms or patterns of the weather.
Every morning during circle time, my class discusses the weather. They are learning new words such as blustery, foggy, and overcast, to describe the day’s weather. As the month of March approaches, I’m teaching my kindergarteners about weather folklore. We will make notes on March first; will March come in like a lion or a lamb? We will then make predictions about whether March goes out like a lion or a lamb.
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” – John Ruskin
Kate Emery General is a retired chef/restaurant owner who was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Kate loves her grandchildren, knitting, and watercolor painting. Kate and her husband, Matt are longtime residents of Cambridge’s West End where they enjoy swimming and bicycling.