Tag Archives: weather

Snow Day Magic Rituals

TG is a 25 year old graduate student and cultural forensic anthropologist. She grew up in Maryland and currently resides in Tennessee. She says this ritual occurred often in the winter months when she was in elementary school.

Context: TG experienced many snow storms throughout her life, the most notable one being the North American Blizzard of 2010. TG loved the snow as a kid, but like many other kids, loved no school more.

Transcript (discussed over the phone):

TG: When I was younger, maybe in third or fourth grade, whenever the forecast said there would be snow we would do three things: flush ice down the toilet, sleep with a small spoon under our pillow, and wear our pajamas inside out. If we did this then there was a greater chance that we would have a snow day.

Collector: How did you and your classmates know to do this?

TG: We were told by our teachers. They’d tell us to do those things so we could have a snow day, they wanted one too I guess. Oh! And everything had certain meanings to them, the ice down the toilet represented the snow, the spoon represented the shovel that was not big enough to shovel all of the snow, and to me the inside out pajamas just represented disorientation.

Collector: Did you actually do those things every time there was supposed to be snow?

TG: Oh my goodness of course! I didn’t wanna have school just like the teachers. I loved doing those little things and hoping we’d have a snow day.

Analysis: This is especially important when considering the geographical location of this superstition. It also being children’s superstition shows that children also have their quirky and interesting rituals that they do that reflect sympathetic magic. These rituals reflect how children are influenced by their teachers and families. These children will grow up to pass this on to the children in their lives.

Opening Windows in a Tornado

“Whenever there’s a tornado, you’re supposed to open up all of the windows in your house… which scientifically does not make sense, but you’re supposed to do it… you’re supposed to do it to balance out the anger of – the supposed anger of the storm… it’s thought that if you’re inviting it in, it will be less hostile to you…”

Background: The informant was raised in the lower midwestern region of the United States, specifically Kansas, and now goes to college in California.  He learned of this custom from his elementary school librarian.

Context: I was told about this tradition in USC’s Annenberg Hall during a quick interview.

It was interesting to sit down and hear about unique experiences of natural phenomena, especially as someone raised in a tropical country and subsequently California.  I have never needed to consider the stories and beliefs that people may hold who come from a different region in the United States who have to live through different natural disasters such as tornadoes.  The thought processes for “inviting” a tornado in to minimize its damage is compelling, and would definitely be unique to an area that experiences such weather often.

 “Lluvia antes de las tres, buena tarde es.”

TEXT: “Lluvia antes de las tres, buena tarde es.”

INFORMANT DESCRIPTION: Male, 58 years old, Mexican.

CONTEXT: This phrase was said in and is only applicable to Mexico City when it would be raining in the morning. He learned it from his mother who learned it from her mother. Said in the morning with knowledge that the rain would clear by the afternoon, which in Mexico was after lunch so by 2:30pm or 3:00pm.

ANALYSIS: Mexico City is the center of Mexico. It is like if you combined Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. all in one city. It is where politics, centralized government, and business has happened for many decades. Families have been living there for centuries. The city is a valley surrounded by mountains, the valley itself is already at a very high elevation, it is the coolest weather within a very tropical country. Therefore it has its own ecosystem/weather. These inhabitants have seen this pattern, that if it rains in the morning it will be lovely afternoon for hundreds of years, making this proverb very reliable and common. The informant grew up with it and it still applies. He would plan his day on it, if it rained in the morning he would make afternoon plans to be outdoors.

ORIGINAL SCRIPT: “Lluvia antes de las tres, buena tarde es.”

TRANSLITERATION: “Yoo-vee-ah ahn-teh-ss -deh-lah-ss treh-ss boo-eh-nah tah-rr-deh eh-ss.”

TRANSLATION: “Rain before three, good afternoon it is.”

THOUGHTS: I think it is really fascinating to be in a place with a climate that follows a pattern so closely. Sort of like a rainbow after the rain but you know it will always happen no matter what. I’ve spent time in Mexico City but never noticed this and am excited to go back and hopefully see for myself if it is true.

First Rain – A College Tradition

Background information/context of performance: DC is a 21-year-old student at University of Southern California, Santa Cruz. She grew up in Los Angeles and Alameda, CA, but is currently living in an apartment in Santa Cruz. Now that we’re back on campus, DC has been able to engage much more with UCSC culture and traditions.

DC: First Rain is another tradition that Santa Cruz has, but I think it’s the same for a lot of colleges. It still hasn’t happened this year though (laughs). Because it hasn’t even rained. It’s pretty sad, um, but I guess we still have a few weeks for it to happen.

Me: If there had been a first rain at UCSC this year, what would the tradition look like?

DC: It rains a lot in Santa Cruz usually. But a lot of students like to exercise by walking and running around campus, so maybe this came from that? I don’t know. But basically, like, whenever it rains on campus for the first time during the school year, everyone will run through campus naked. I think everyone runs from somewhere to Porter College, and the run ends there.

Me: Do you know anyone who has been able to participate in First Rain? Is that how you now about it?

DC: Yeah, I think I know a couple underclassmen friends who have? I’m not really sure. I think people mostly just know about it because it’s a big Santa Cruz thing. It just fits with the whole, like, hippie kinda reputation the college has. I remember Kayla is the one who told me about it in high school, when I decided to go here. Maybe they knew from their friends who went there in past years too.

Me: It might be too late for a First Rain this year, but would you do it next year?

DC: (laughs) Um…maybe! If my friends did it with me then I feel like it would be funny. And I’ll be a senior so I may as well since it’s my last chance. But I’m not, like, in a rush to do it. I think it’s funny though, I would definitely wanna see one before I graduate.

I have heard of this tradition occurring at multiple universities, but UCSC definitely has a culture that I feel like aligns with it tradition the most. The college is known to have a very free-spirited and artsy student body, so learning about their First Rain tradition was a fun way to see how that reputation is kept up. I also think it was very interesting to learn that First Rain has become less accessible due to the lack of rain in California, despite the fact that it was established when it rained very often during the Fall and Winter months in Santa Cruz. Hearing about this made me think about the relationship between climate change and longstanding folklore and traditions – if something like UCSC’s First Rain can no longer occur annually because the environment is much dryer than it used to be, I can only imagine how other cultural practices and traditions throughout the world have changed/become obsolete as a result of climate change as well.

Wooly Worm Weather Prediction

Background: My informant is a 50 year old woman from Tennessee. She first heard about the folklore from her father, but has heard it many times anecdotally since.

J: Wooly worms are funny little caterpillars, I’m sure you’ve seen them before. They’re everywhere in the south. 

Me: I saw tons of them in Maine when I went to summer camp! So, tell me more about them. 

J: Well, I’m no bug expert. I know they’re orange and black, and they’ve got fur! *laughter* I always thought they were funny-looking. They’re usually in the foliage, but some of them come out to uh, say hello at picnics and such. But people think the ones you find in fall can predict the severity of the winter. If the orange band is big, the winter will be mild. A bigger black band means a nasty winter. It’s a common belief. 

Me: I think I’ve heard that before. Do you think it’s true?

J: I had some cousins who really thought so. When we were younger we’d go out and look for them and they’d try to make predictions. I was probably only 6 or 7. I didn’t care so much, I just wanted to hold them, and uh, I suppose I didn’t have a good frame of reference back then. I didn’t really know what was a big band or a small band, they usually all looked the same to me. I think I can tell better now. But I’m not sure myself if it’s real. I remember bad winters, but I don’t remember if I saw big black bands on the caterpillars before them.

My thoughts: This superstition is very common, especially east of the American continental divide, so much so that after our conversation I looked it up and saw that a scientist in the 50’s tried to scientifically prove its accuracy. He didn’t ultimately do that great because his sample sizes were too small. Very similar to this practice is Groundhog day, where Punxsutawney Phil looks for his shadow, and if he sees it, it means six more weeks of winter. The difference is that the wooly worm predictions are more localized and personalized, as anyone who finds a caterpillar can make their own predictions. Groundhog day is mostly endemic to Pennsylvania, though even in California some people take it as a prediction for our own winter, which is quite silly. I think the wooly worm predictions have a better chance of being legitimate than the groundhog prediction, though both are ultimately just longstanding and fun folk superstitions. 

For more info on wooly worms, see https://www.almanac.com/woolly-bear-caterpillars-and-weather-prediction