Welcome to the February 2013 edition of
Jud’s New England Journal, the rather
curious monthly musings of Judson Hale,
the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine,
published since 1935 in Dublin, N.H.
Winter Weather Sayings
Can’t Be True. Can They?
Surely a few have validity, of course,
but others are just plain silly. The
trick is knowing which is which…
As we proceed along through the month of February, the old winter weather sayings are heard once again, often with a sort of doomsday theme. Some have been around for centuries here in New England and show no signs of fading away. For instance, “If a man [or woman?] makes it through the winter, he’ll make it through the summer.” Open, snowless winters like last year (and maybe this year?) are considered to be unhealthy. “A green Christmas makes for a fat cemetery.”
I’d have to say that some of the moon sayings, like “a full moon brings a change in the weather,” are not difficult to believe. After all, the moon (with a little help from the sun) dramatically changes the level of the Atlantic Ocean off our coasts twice each day. Our atmosphere is full of water–and so are we human beings. Many coastal people are convinced that if a person is dying and survives the turn of the tide, he or she will make it to the next tide. Most people, they say, die on the ebb tide.
The New England weather sayings that seem to me to be totally meaningless are those created simply because they rhyme. Like, “When a cat lies on its brain, then it’s surely going to rain.” I also don’t hold in high regard those sayings that rely on nature’s fairness and short-term balance…i.e. “If a month comes in good, it goes out bad.” “A warm Christmas means a cold Easter.” Naaah.
Sayings that depend upon a haphazard arrangement of numbers are not believable either. For instance, “As many days old is the moon at the first snow, there will be that many snows before crop planting time again.”
At least this last is based on what I consider to be the correct assumption that the universe is orderly and precise. That every phenomenon has a cause and effect. That nothing, including weather, occurs randomly.
How frustrating, however, that this obvious precision in our universe cannot translate reasonably into the assumption that the age of the moon at the date of an autumn’s first snowstorm will indicate the number of additional snowstorms that will occur between then and the following spring. To be sure, the obvious flaw is that the numbers linked in that old weather saying have no business being linked.
Some years ago, I was attempting to explain this in a talk I was giving to a women’s club in Montpelier, Vermont, a week after a rather severe snowstorm hit New England unusually early. Naturally, coming in October as it did, it was the season’s first snowstorm. And it so happened that on that date the moon was two days old. A perfect example, I thought, of how these numerological weather sayings simply do not work.
“So as you can understand,” I said to the ladies gathered there that day, “if this moon-age weather saying were to be applied to this coming winter, the snowstorm we just had last week would be one of only two major snowstorms that’ll hit us between now and next spring.”
General laughter all around. How ridiculous. But, you know, that’s exactly how it turned out.