Onion Snow and Other PA Dutch Weather Folklore


SOL March 2015 Challenge Day 22

It is no secret that I was upset by the snow we had on Friday.  After all, I missed my first trip to Rita’s.  The snow, however, was totally gone by Saturday afternoon.  Here in Pennsylvania, and especially in Dutch country, there is a name for it – onion snow.  I had often heard spring snows referred to as this when I wsas growing up, but I never really gave much thought to why it was given this name.

I thought that today I would share a bit about the meaning of onion snow as well as some other weather related PA Dtch folklore.

First, it would probably help to know a little bit about the PA Dutch.  To be clear, I am not Dutch, I just live in a heavily populated PA Dutch area.  The term “Pennsylvania Dutch,” sometimes called “Pennsylvania German,” refers to a cultural group of German heritage, based on a misunderstanding of the German word “Deutsch.” This group descended from southwestern German settlers brought to the area in the 1600s by William Penn. The unique Pennsylvania Dutch dialect arose from the intersection of colonial English with the German spoken by the immigrants. (Taken from the wersite http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-onion-snow.htm)

Onion snow refers to the last snow before the end of the Spring season.  Some sources say it occurs after the traditional time of planting spring onions while others say it indicates the proper time to plant them.  In either case, onion snow is a light snow that melts quickly.  Other parts of the country may have a different name for this type of snow.

Here are 10 other PA Dutch related weather facts:

  1. Weather occurring on any month’s fifth day is a predictor of the weather for the entire month
  2. Overactive behavior by children is said to be a sign that rain is imminent
  3. Rain is similarly said to be on its way if morning fields contain many cobwebs
  4. A crowing rooster in late evening predicts rainfall overnight
  5. A cold winter is believed to be foretold by the plumpness of corn as it grows
  6. It is said to be warm enough for corn planting when women are seen sticking one of their legs out from beneath the bedcovers
  7. W\when the leaves show their backsides, a storm is approaching
  8. Once the katydids start singing, count 90 days.  That’s when the first frost hits!
  9. Count the number of mornings in August when fog covers the ground.  That’s how many snowfalls we will have come winter!
  10. And for those of you with pets, if your dog howls at the moon, expect the first snow fall soon!  If your cat sits with her back to the fire, snow is on it’s way!

So, what kinds of weather folklore do you know?


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19 responses to “Onion Snow and Other PA Dutch Weather Folklore

  1. Never heard of onion snow, so this post gave me lots of information. Loved the sticking the foot out of the bed tidbit. 🙂 I think I have seen trees with their leaves turned and it did rain. Sorry I don’t have weather lore to share.

  2. I have had the privilege of visiting your area. I was so amazed with its beauty. I transported myself from the desert of west Texas, to the eastern seaboard. I was SO shocked. But I grew and grew. The exposure and opportunities for self development really helped me to mature!

  3. I never heard of onion snow. Your post was fun to read. – Weather halo around the moon (kind of rainbowish color) storm in four days. – Source don’t know.

  4. I hadn’t heard of any of these but I LOVE them!!!! Now I want to know more! Thanks for such an interesting post!

  5. I remember my mother saying something about a crescent moon with its point up…like it can hold water means no rain for a while…but if the crescent is tilted enough it is called a ‘dripping moon’….and there will be rain. I think it is something like that. I had never heard of onion snow….so…again I have learned something from your blog. Really, really interesting.

  6. What a great post packed with new vocabulary for me! I live in Seattle- no idea about onion snow!

  7. I grew up in Iowa with many farmers in the family and many of these were used. – the leaves turing over, over active kids, katydids start singing, count 90 days. I know there are others so will not have to ask my cousins what others they remember.

  8. I wrote about superstitions on Fri. the 13th, but little about weather there. I know #’s 7 & 8 from growing up in Missouri, know less about Colorado lore. fun to hear all these. I love the bit about onion snow-makes sense, doesn’t it?

  9. Loved this post filled with fun new ideas. The term onion snow is a lovely unexpected juxtaposition of words and once explained, even more interesting! I also enjoyed reading about the other ways the PD forecast weather. Some I had heard, but most were new to me. In Maine there are weather sticks that foretell impending storms based on whether they point up or down. I sincerely hope that our upcoming forecast calls for sunnier, warmer days. I am tired of seeing snow.

  10. What a fascinating collection of folklore tidbits. Onion snow is my favorite one. So here is the twist. You were upset about Friday’s snow and I, still on my positivity campaign, loved it because it provided a winter white landscape that was truly beautiful. I captured the snow in photos and then wrote about it on Saturday and today at beyondliteracylink.blogspot.

  11. Interesting! Don’t have weather lore, but have you heard of the weather rock?
    If wet, it’s raining.
    If dry, it’s not raining.
    If warm, it’s sunny.
    If cool, it’s overcast.
    If white, it’s snowing.
    If jumping, earthquake.
    If spinning, tornado.

  12. A Kindergarten teacher and I had a whole conversation about onion snow on Friday. One child thought it mean that we put onions in the snow to cool them down. My husband’s family is PA Dutch (a bit). While we don’t see them very often, I have picked up a few things. Onion snow was a new. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I know here in Michigan, where our weather is often changed by the Great Lakes, I can predict the weather change by my Young 5’s student’s behavior.

  14. That was very informative! Have you noticed any of this folklore actually being true. Having lived in Southern California most of my life we lack great weather folklore!

  15. Judy C.

    Interesting tidbits about your part of the country and the weather. I have a friend who lives and Maytown and she tells me it has just kept snowing this year – I’ll have to share your info with her. Thanks for sharing

  16. Onion Snow is a new for me, I may forget how its supposed to be applied, but I won’t forget the term. Delightful post.

  17. Lisa

    I will add two. I used to teach in a school where they all believed that killing a spider would make it rain. It was my first Canadian school, so I mistook it for a Canadian, or at least Ontarian, superstition. Turns it it’s pretty isolated to that school! Second, when I was in NJ, the school where I where I worked had a superstition that if you wore your pyjamas inside out AND put a spoon under your pillow, the next day would be a snow day. Of course, snow had to be predicted for it to work. This just guaranteed it! Not sure if everyone in NJ believes that.

    Rita’s! So sorry you missed one on opening day!

  18. “Red sky at night, sailors delight,
    Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”
    So red sunset at night foretells good weather the next day…safe to take your boat out. Red sunrise means bad weather is coming – not safe for going out to fish or haul traps.

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