Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Ice Cube in the Toilet

The informant is a college student born and raised in Denver, Colorado. While the informant and I were studying in the library together, I asked him if he or any of his friends had any traditions or superstitions that were unique to Denver. He described a folk belief that children engaged in when hoping school would be canceled for a snow day.

“If a large snowstorm is predicted or if it is snowing lightly before bed, you have to flush an ice cube down the toilet in hopes that there will be a snow day and school will be cancelled the next morning. The more kids that flush an ice cube down the toilet, the more likely it is that there will be a snow day.”

The belief is most prevalent during one’s elementary and middle school years, but many people continue to carry out the tradition of flushing an ice cube down the toilet throughout high school. The superstition goes that flushing a single ice cube down the toilet will ensure a snow day. The informant was not sure what the significance of the single ice cube was, but said that he has always thought it has to do with the fact that ice cubes and snow both require below freezing temperatures. I followed up with a friend from New York City to determine whether this was an isolated folk belief, and she confirmed that kids at her school did the same thing. Growing up in California, I had never known anyone to engage in this practice. The belief in this sympathetic folk magic, then, is most likely concentrated in areas where snowfall is common. It is a fun and harmless way for children to try to get out of school, and probably continues to be spread among children rapidly because of the idea that each child must do his or her own part to make it snow, and so it is very likely that when one child hears of the supposed magic properties of flushing an ice cube down a toilet that they will tell their friends to do it as well.

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