This has been a great year for those gardeners in my area who go old school, and refuse to plant spring stuff until after the First of May. There’s also certain things that people won’t plant until after Memorial Day.
But this year, my mother has been moved to clarify that, when she has refused in the past to plant things before my older brother’s birthday, she was actually not doing that, not exactly. Instead, she was following her grandmother’s good ol’ German saying that you can have frost any time until “the Ice Kings”. So you don’t plant before the Ice Kings.
No, we’re not talking about hockey. Or daffodils. But I can’t find it on the Internet because of them.
I swear I’ve read about this on the Internet before, which was why it was weird to hear it from my mother. It’s a German saint thing. There are three saints’ days in the middle of May that are called “the Ice Kings”.
Okay, apparently the majority of German speakers on the Intarwebz have either three or _five_ saints’ days in May that they call the “Eisheiligen”, or Ice Saints. There’s a lot of different sayings about them, collectively and individually.
Here’s a page about them, which also calls them the Ice Men. It’s the old days for the feasts of Ss. Mamertus, Pancras (or Pancratius), Servatius, Boniface (or Bonifatius), and Sophie. They’re all martyrs, not “kings” per se; so “Ice Kings” just means that they end the ice time, or is a parallel to the feast of the Three Kings that begin the really hard winter. So this sounds familiar to what I’ve read before.
This is also a saying in France, where they call them “les saints de Glace”.
This isn’t right in my family, though. The Ice Kings are from the 15th to the 17th, my mom said. Maybe my Ohio immigrant family is just more paranoid than the ones who stuck around in Germany. Or maybe this version comes from the Swiss side of my family. I mean, you’d have to be paranoid up in the Alps. It’s even been pointed out that, with the change from Julian to Gregorian dates, the Eisheiligen period really should be from May 19th-May 22nd. Heh.
I suspect that the definition of Ice Kings changes, depending on how stubborn the frost in your locale is. I mean, there’s even a German saying for June 22nd, the “end of snow”, that it’s okay to shear your sheep because there’ll be no snow after that. That has to be some kind of mountain or Arctic saying, ’cause snow in June isn’t a worry for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere!
Anyway… once again, you see the pattern of the immigrants keeping the name that the folks back in the Old Country ditch. (Although it probably didn’t help that Hitler’s pet occultists made up some stupid Aryan definition of some old tribe as being “ice kings”. So there may be legal reasons connected with the anti-Nazi laws for us not to see the old name come up in searches.)