Though my father always referred to Ice Saints when I was a kid, I had more or less forgotten about them for the better part of two decades, and they did not bob back to the surface of my life until I moved to Hungary about five years ago. Needless to say, Hungarians agonize over the arrival of the Ice Saints every year. And who can blame them? Spring starts early in this part of the world. By mid-April, winter is but a distant memory and nearly everything is in full bloom. Regardless, most Hungarians simply refuse to plant frost-sensitive vegetables or flowers in their garden until the Ice Saints have come and gone.
This year I made a point of focusing on the weather as the Feast of the Ice Saints began. May 11 was a warm and balmy day with temperatures in the mid-twenties (Celsius). I spent the better part of the afternoon outside working on my chicken coop wearing only a pair of shorts, sweat dripping liberally from my brow. Then, at around six in the evening, a strong wind began to blow, signaling the arrival of a cold front. The next morning, May 12, it was a crisp four degrees Celsius. Though it warmed up a little over the course of the day, the temperature barely broke double digits. May 13 also proved to be unseasonable cool. As for today - well, the morning was cool (5 degrees), but the day warmed up nicely as it progressed. Nevertheless, the forecast is calling for cooler temperatures until the weekend.
The Ice Saints did not succeed in casting a sheen of frost on anything this year, but they did manage to drop the temperature in Hungary significantly, which makes me wonder if there is more to the Ice Saints than just mere folklore.
In any event, the Feast of the Ice Saints inspired me to think about the past, about those centuries when everyone - from the richest lord to the humblest peasant - knew the feast day of practically every saint in existence, not just the dreaded Ice Saints. Though it seems like trivial knowledge to a modern mind, I can't help but feel that waking up innately knowing which saint was being celebrated on a particular day made life richer and more meaningful.