USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘snow day’
Folk Beliefs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Snow Day Ritual

Description

“You would hear there was a snow coming, a big storm, and in order to secure the snow day, you would do the pre-snow day ritual. What you would do is wear your pajamas backwards, then flush three ice cubes down the toilet. While the ice cubes were being flushed you would chant ‘I love snow days.’ The ice needed to be gone, your pants needed to be backwards, and then you had to do it until the ice cubes were gone. If it worked, you were a genius, and if it didn’t work, you were pretty stupid.”

Context

The informant reported that in Michigan, where they are from, snow days are incredibly important to school culture. This ritual would be used when the informant was in school, usually in the winter, to attempt to secure a snow day, which involved shutting down school for a day due to inclimate weather.

Analysis

A lot of students have been heard of doing this — I had similar snow day rituals that the students believed, often well into high school. I find this sort of thing very cool because where does it come from? At what point, after the invention of the modern school day began, did something like this start, and how did it become customary for students? My own personal idea is that it comes from other rituals to ward off evil, but is a children’s bastardization of that idea, creating their own.

 

Folk Beliefs
Magic

Throwing Ice Cubes

What is being performed?
JJ: You never got to be around snow growing up so you wouldn’t know this but when I was in
elementary school, we all thought we could make it snow.
AA: How did you make it snow?
JJ: My first grade teacher, uh, I think it was first grade. Whatever. She told me that if you throw
ice outside your window at night then the next day it would snow.
AA: Wow. Has that ever worked?
JJ: Yes, actually. Everytime. But I think it was because whenever my teacher would tell us to do
that, there was already snow predicted on the weather forecast.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: What did that tradition mean to you growing up?
JJ: I mean now it’s just silly but when I was a kid I felt powerful. You know? Like I could control
the weather even though I was just throwing ice cubes out a window.
AA: Did you hear it from anyone other than your teacher?
JJ: The other kids at school believed it. I think my brother also told it to me growing up too.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
This is usually performed during winter in places where it snows. My informant is from
Newburyport, Massachusetts and claims that it was a big deal there. I am from Los Angeles and
have never heard of this so it must be performed in places where it snows in America to small
children.

Reflection
I really like this folk belief and find it funny. I could see little kids throwing ice outside of their
windows hoping for snow. I had never heard of this before but my roommate from Boston has
and remembers throwing ice outside of her window.

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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