May is a strange weather month in Northern Europe. The past few Aprils in Frankfurt have had a high number of quite warm and sunny days, even if they start out with cool temperatures in the mornings. As May began, however, the temperatures have headed south, er, gone down. We have the heat running, and the wind and rain have had an extra cold bite whenever I leave the house. This has a long tradition in Europe, and it has a name. The "Eisheiligen" refers to a period in May when, according to popular farmers' lore, the weather is still too unstable to plant crops because of the danger of frost. There are five saints (Mamertus, Pancras, Servatius, Bonifatius, and Sophie) whose feast days fall from the 11th to the 15th of May. Under the Julian calendar, that period was associated with late frosts. If adjusted to the Gregorian calendar, the period would be later in May, but global warming probably would have pushed the date forward. Scientists have been unable to determine that there really is a higher chance of frost in May, but anytime the weather dips from warm to cool in May, Germans start talking about the Ice Saints. The last of the Ice Saints is Sophia of Rome, who is thought to have lived sometime in the 2nd or 3rd Century, and who was referred to by farmers invoking her protection as "Cold Sophie".
St. Sophia of Rome with her Three
Daughters: Faith, Hope and Love