Do You Know Who the Ice Saints Are?

The weather here in our little valley has turned quite brisk this week. The winds have picked up enough that MamaOzzy’s horseback riding lesson got cut short on Thursday. Her horse, Emma, was spooked when the wind blew her off balance. And her poor instructor was just not able to shout over the wind. They gave it a good try, but the weather simply wasn’t cooperating. So home she came.

I guess we’re having a bit of what’s called a “blackthorn winter.” And how appropriate, as the blackthorn is linked to the so-called Ice Saints, whose days are marked on May 11-15 in many Germanic and Eastern European countries. Depending on the country where the occasion is marked, the saints include:

  • Saint Mamertus (May 11)
  • Saint Pancras (May 12)
  • Saint Servatius (May 13)
  • Saint Boniface (May 14)
  • Saint Sophia (May 15)

I found it interesting to not that none of the saints seem to have anything to do with cold weather or the growing season. Though St. Mamertus is associated with intercession against earthquakes . . .

Ice Saints and the blackthorn winter: cool expressions for #writing about springtime | #trees #weather #funwithwords
Blackthorn winter is a cold snap after spring weather has set in. Please use this image to pin this post about the blackthorn and the Ice Saints.
Collage of public domain images by Pixabay users siegfriedzackl0, LaMaLaMa55, katja, and MichaelGaida

Blackthorn Winter

“Blackthorn winter” is a cold snap that happens after the warm weather has arrived. In some regions this may actually be before the last frost day, but may be very close to it. For our little valley, which has its own microclimate, the last frost date is in late April. But for the surrounding area, last frost occurs sometime between May 11-20. Either way, weather has been warming up until this little bit of cold weather we are having. The Ice Saints are definitely having their influence!

The expression “blackthorn winter” has inspired several authors. If you look it up online, you’ll find a handful of different novels – including one aimed at younger readers – all with the name Blackthorn Winter. So it’s probably not the best choice for a book title!

But why not incorporate the concept of a blackthorn winter into your writing in other ways? Or why not invoke the Ice Saints instead? These expressions evoke a certain nostalgia – and they may also be a bridge to writing about a different place on earth: the UK, Germany or its neighbours, one of the eastern European countries perhaps.

Can you recall a time when you lived through a spring cold snap that could be seen as a visit from the Ice Saints? Maybe you can find a creative way to turn that experience of cold weather into a scenario for a short story, or a scene for your novel. Or maybe it will just be fodder for a blog about the blackthorn tree – a project I’m currently working on myself!


2 thoughts on “Do You Know Who the Ice Saints Are?

    1. I suspect the Ice Saints are more a Germanic thing, and the blackthorn winter is better known in the UK.

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