Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Frozen Saints

Before the Vatican traded 'em in on different models, 11, 12, and 13 May were the feast days of Saints Mamertus, Pancras, and Servatius. Because northern Europeans noticed that there was often a cold snap around this time, the three are referred to as the Ice Saints and implored for protection against late freezes. The French call them les saints de glace, and, Vatican revisionists notwithstanding, modern Belgians are still aware of the folk wisdom and will not put out tender plants until after what they refer to as les saints de gel. Our morning drive time radio announcers were talking about them the other day, as they announced three days of icy temps and rain. It was about 40F yesterday and 42 today. Tomorrow, though, for Saint Servatius' day it's supposed to get all the way up in the low 50s. I plan to go to work in shorts and flipflops.

Noteworthy is that Servatius was the 4th century bishop of the Roman town of Tongeren (Tongres in French), which is now in eastern Belgium and is famous for its weekly antique market. That's where we got the monks bench.


FrMike said...

St. Pancras, at least, has survived in the post-Vatican II calendar. His memorial (optional) is today, May 12. Don't have a copy of Butler's Lives handy to see what it says about your other 2 frozen saints.

Anonymous said...

Just as a sidebar, I never set out the Summer annuals before the 15th of May as that is the traditional last chance for a killing frost in this area. Coincidence? File in the category of "things that make you go, hmmmmm"....donald

Anonymous said...

Interesting observation. This 3 day period of time probably relates to the American folklore of "blackberry winter." So I learned two things today.