May 15 is the feast day of Saint Sophia of Rome. On this date, Saint Sophia was regularly invoked against frosts that occurred late in the year; thus she was called kalte Sophie ‘cold Sophia’ in Germany by those who requested her aid in planting arable crops. Considered to be one of the “Ice Saints”. Sophia is also an “ice saint” in Slovenia and Central Europe, where St. Sophia’s day (“Cold Sophie”) is considered the last day of cold weather. There, Sophia is associated with rain and is nicknamed poscana Zofka ‘pissing Sophie’ or mokra Zofija ‘wet Sophia’ in folk tradition. In Czech, the Sophia is known as “Žofie, ledová žena” (Sophia, the ice-woman).
Many of the old weather rules are now forgotten. Nowadays, we rely on the weather forecasts of radio and television. According to lore, the “Ice Saints” Pankratius, Servatius and Bonifatius as well as the “Cold Sophie” are known for a cooling trend in the weather between 12th and 15th of May. For centuries this well-known rule had many gardeners align their plantings after it. Observations of weather patterns over many years have shown, however, that a drop in temperature occurs frequently only around May 20. Are the “Ice Saints” not in tune anymore? The mystery solution is found in the history of our calendar system: Pope Gregory VIII arranged a calendar reform in 1582, whereby the differences of the Julian calendar could be corrected to the sun year to a large extent.
The day of the “Cold Sophie” (May 15) was the date in the old calendar and corresponds to today’s May 22. Therefore the effects of the “Ice Saints” is felt in the time span of May 19-22. Sensitive transplants should only be put in the garden beds after this date.
Who is Saint Sophia of Rome?
According to tradition, she was a young woman of Rome who was killed for her faith during the reign of Diocletian. She was buried in the cemetery of Gordianus and Epimachus, and is venerated by the catholic church as a Christian martyr.