July 15 – St. Swithin's Day in Great Britain

Posted on July 15, 2013

St. Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.

This bit of cute-and-folksy superstition boils down to the idea that, whether the weather on St. Swithin's Day is sunny or rainy, that sort of weather will hold for the next 40 days.

It's a bit like Groundhog Day in the U.S. It's based on the fact that people always pay attention to the weather in hopes that they can better predict future weather. And that makes sense; rainstorms often last several days, and warming trends often stick around for a while, too. That said, these special holidays that are supposed to predict future weather...don't!

Fifty-five different studies of British weather have proven that this particular superstition, like other superstitions, just doesn't match up with the facts.

How did St. Swithin's Day get started?

Well, it is said that a bishop named Swithin, who lived more than a thousand years ago, asked that he be buried out of doors. He liked the idea that people would walk over his grave and that rain would sprinkle onto his remains. Of course, the monks of Winchester, where Swithin lived, followed his directions. However, after nine years, the monks decided to build a beautiful shrine to St. Swithin inside the Winchester Cathedral, and to move his remains to this indoor shrine.

The legend tells us that, on this date in 971, there was a heavy rainstorm on St. Swithin's reburial ceremony. The tale hints that the spirit of Swithin was complaining about being moved indoors! I did not read whether or not the ceremony continued despite the storm—whether or not Swithin's remains were actually moved—whether or not it continued to rain for 40 more days that summer in 971. Really, it all happened so long ago, I probably couldn't count on such details.

Also on this date:

Mathematician Fibonacci's birthday 

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest pages on July holidayshistorical anniversaries in July, and July birthdays.

And here are my Pinterest pages on August holidayshistorical anniversaries in August, and August birthdays.

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