April Showers & Such: A Meteorological Calendar of Polish Sayings
#language & literature
default, April Showers & Such:
A Meteorological Calendar
of Polish Sayings, Józef Broda, a musician from the Beskid Śląski region, photo: Andrzej Sidor / Forum, center, jozef-broda-fot-andrzej-sidor-forum-0429279967.jpg
What kind of summer can you expect when the winter is warm? What will the weather be like if you spot bees in April? If it rains on Christmas Eve, what sort of winter awaits us? Discover the answers to these arresting questions, and many others, in Culture.pl’s meteorological calendar for the year, composed of traditional Polish sayings about each month.
Polish folklore has dozens of sayings about months, a great deal of which have to do with the weather. In Polish weather-related month sayings you can find basic truths, prognostics based on conditions in particular periods as well as revelations for farmers. Although one could argue these old sayings have lost much of their validity due to rapidly progressing climate change, they do sometimes incorporate certain more common modern anomalies such as warm winters.
Trusting that our forefathers got it right (or just finding these sayings to be amusing fruits of folk culture) we’ve created a year’s weather calendar composed of some of the most intriguing Polish sayings about each month of the year. So, if you’re curious what the weather in the upcoming year might have in store for you, do have a look!
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- Kiedy w styczniu lato, w lecie zimno za to.
- When it’s summer in January, then the summer is chilly.
Due to climate change, winters in the Northern Hemisphere are warmer than they used to be. This saying seems to be commenting on that by showing what to expect when the first month of the year is warmer than usual. Apparently, a warm January may lead to another anomaly: a cold summer.
- Kiedy styczeń mokry trzyma, zwykle bywa długa zima.
- When January stays wet, a long winter’s what you get.
One of the signs of a Polish winter that is warmer than usual is when January, a month that’s supposed to bring a lot of snow, is rainy. However, according to this saying, a wet or warm January doesn’t mean that winter will quickly make way for spring. On the contrary, it actually is a sign that spring is still a long way away.
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- Na Trzech Króli słońce świeci, wiosna do nas pędem leci.
- Sun shines on Three Kings' Day, spring’ll be here right away.
Here’s an example of a weather-related saying that deals with a particular day in the calendar, in this case Three King’s Day or 6th January. While a wet January means a long wait for spring, a sunny Three King’s Day means quite the opposite.
- Idzie luty, podkuj buty.
- February’s coming, shoes need shoeing.
In the old days it was common to furnish the heels of shoes with metal plates for extra protection from the snow and ice. This antiquated practice is referenced in the saying at hand, which reminds us of the importance of a good pair of shoes that’ll keep your feet warm during the cold wintertime.
- Czasem luty się zlituje, że człek niby wiosnę czuje, ale czasem tak się zżyma, że człek prawie nie wytrzyma.
- Sometimes February has pity on you, you can almost feel the spring, but sometimes it’s so mean, you can barely pull through.
This saying describes the two faces of February in Poland. At times it gets so cold it’s almost unbearable, with temperatures reaching even -20°C. But there are also warm February days which remind us that spring is just round the corner.
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- Święty Walenty bywa nieugięty.
- St. Valentine doesn’t often change his mind.
Although February can ‘change its mind’ and switch from being unbearably cold to being pleasantly warm, it doesn’t happen all that often. So, unfortunately for all you lovebirds, there’s a high chance that Valentine’s Day will be frighteningly cold!
- W marcu jak w garncu.
- March weather is like the inside of a kettle.
In Poland, March weather is traditionally prone to abrupt changes. Sunshine can quickly be substituted by rain or snow, sudden winds and so forth. That’s why this saying compares the weather in March to a kettle, which seems like it can quite chaotic inside when filled with boiling water.
- Co marzec wypiecze, to kwiecień wysiecze.
- What March will bake, April will take.
Sometimes March in Poland can be quite warm, leading to the growth of plants. However, the new growths that appear in this month may not make it through April, a month that can bring long periods of harshly cold weather.
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- Ile mgieł w marcu, tyle deszczów w czerwcu.
- There is as much fog in March, they say, as in June there is rain.
Modern science has yet to prove (or disprove) this saying, which for now remains nothing more than a delightful example of weather-related folk beliefs. However, meteorologists should definitely do some research and find out whether a peculiar correlation between March fog and June rain actually exists!
- Kwiecień plecień, bo przeplata - trochę zimy, trochę lata.
- Since it weaves, April’s a weaver – a bit if summer, a bit of winter.
Like in March, the weather in April can also be capricious. Polish Aprils are known to juxtapose nice, sunny days with spells of cold, wintery weather. April is very well captured in this saying, which is one of the better-known month sayings in Poland.
- Ciepły kwiecień, mokry maj – będzie zboże jako gaj.
- A warm April, a wet May – crops aplenty on their way.
Here we have an example of a saying addressed to farmers. It says that a specific sequence of weather conditions leads to a bountiful harvest. According to the Polish Academy of Sciences rains in May facilitate the growth of wheat, so it seems that the saying at hand may actually be true.
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- Jeśli w kwietniu pszczoły latają, to długie chłody się zapowiadają.
- When in April the bees fly, it means it’ll stay cold for quite a while.
Bees are likeable, beneficial creatures, pollinators, which make delicious honey, so it only seems right to be excited when you see them. However, according to this saying, if you spot them too soon, you might be in for a period of cold weather…
- Nie zawsze na ziemi maj, nie zawsze ludzkiemu szczęściu raj.
- It’s not always May on Earth, it’s not always paradise for man’s mirth.
May is considered one of the most beautiful months in Poland. It’s a time when the weather is already pleasantly warm, plants and flowers are blooming, the days are long and still getting longer, all of which positively affects people’s moods. Oh, how wonderful it would be if every month could be like May!
- Deszczyk majowy i płacz panny młodej – niedługotrwałe.
- Rain in May and a bride’s tears – don’t last long.
This saying shows that in May you may expect a lot of sunshine. Any cloudy, rainy weather should quickly go away. The wonderful May weather is compared to the happiness of a bride, a kind of happiness that quickly deals away with any possible spells of sadness.
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- Są dwa Mikołaje: jeden przynosi lato, drugi zimę daje.
- There’s two Santas: One brings summers, the other winters.
The jovial, present-giving Santa Claus we all know from mass culture is a character based on an actual Christian saint – St. Nicholas of Myra. What you may not know is, that in the Catholic calendar there are actually two days that commemorate St. Nicholas – 6th December and 9th May – and so, he brings winter and summer!
- Pełnia czerwcowa – burza gotowa.
- Full moon in June – there’ll be a thunderstorm soon.
Lunar cycles are known to affect the natural habitat of planet Earth, for instance by influencing tides. But, to the author’s best knowledge, a correlation between June’s full moons and thunderstorms has yet to be discovered. Unless our ancestors knew something we don’t…
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- When June is steady, a perfect December’s ready.
A somewhat ambiguous saying as a ‘perfect December’ means different things for different people. While one person might consider a snowy December with snow on Christmas perfect, somebody else might prefer it when December isn’t all that cold. It must be tough for the steady June to balance all these different expectations…
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- Czerwiec po deszczowym maju często dżdżysty w naszym kraju.
- Often after a rainy May comes a June full of rainy days.
It’s bad enough to have a dreary, rainy May, but it’s even worse when the usually beautifully sunny month of June also gets spoiled in the same way. So unless you’re a farmer benefitting from the May rain, this saying can make you want to cry out: ‘Rainy May, stay away!’.
- W lipcu upały, styczeń mroźny cały.
- When there are heatwaves in July, in January it’ll be freezing all the time.
Here we have another saying that – like the one about June and December – makes distant predictions based on certain weather conditions. Apparently, the joy of a nice, hot summer will have to be paid for by enduring extreme weather in the winter.
- Kiedy lipiec daje deszcze, długie lato będzie jeszcze.
- When you get long rains in June, summer won’t be leaving soon.
Many Poles expect June to be sunny and warm, so that their summer holidays can be spent in pleasant conditions. So, when that month is ‘ruined’ by long streaks of rainy weather it can be very sad and frustrating to a lot of people. Fortunately, according to this saying, a rainy June entails a long summer, meaning there should be plenty of occasions to soak up the sun.
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- Od świętej Anki zimne wieczory i ranki.
- After St. Anna’s comes, cold are the dusks and dawns.
St. Anna’s Day is commemorated in the Christian calendar on 26th July. This saying shows that after that date the nights in Poland start getting cooler and cooler. Those, who like the author, enjoy a warm summer night, may want to take special notice of this saying.
- Gdy po lipcu gorącym sierpień się ochłodzi, zima twarda i z wielkim śniegiem chodzi.
- When after a hot July, August cools down, a harsh winter with lots of snow will come around.
This saying seems to be a variation of the one specifying that after a hot July there comes a freezing January. If certain extra conditions will occur (cool weather in August), not only will the winter months be freezing or harsh, but they’ll also bring lots of snow.
- Początki sierpnia pogodne wróżą zimy łagodne.
- When in early August the weather’s nice, a mellow winter is bound to arrive.
Since we already know what kind of winter to expect after a cold August, it only seems fitting to find out what sort of winter to prepared for after an August that’s nice and warm. According to this saying, a pleasant August is followed by a pleasant winter.
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- Gdy Zuzanna z pogodą chadza, piękną jesień przyprowadza.
- When Suzanna walks in nice weather, she brings a beautiful autumn with her.
In the Christian calendar, St. Suzanna is commemorated on 11th August. According to this saying, if the weather on that date is nice, the upcoming autumn will be beautiful. Poles often call a perfect, sunny and warm autumn like that ‘golden’ (złota jesień), due to the fabulous colours it brings with it.
- Jaki pierwszy wrzesień, taka będzie jesień.
- Such is the Autumn weather as is the 1st of September.
Autumn starts in September, with the autumnal equinox on 23rd September. The season lasts until the winter solstice which takes place around 21st December. According to this particular saying, the first day of September can tell you what the weather throughout this period will be like.
- Gdy wrzesień bez deszczów będzie, w zimie wiatru pełno wszędzie.
- When in September it doesn’t rain, a windy winter’s on its way.
This saying would have us believe that there’s a correlation between the lack of rain in September and the occurrence of strong winds in the wintertime. Seems like another conviction that could use some investigation by meteorologist…
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- Straszna jest wrześniowa słota - miarka deszczu, korzec błota.
- September’s awful when the weather’s bad – a bit of rain, a bushel of mud.
Although autumn can be ‘golden’ in Poland, it can also be extremely dreary and downright depressing. The difficulties of making it through a foul-weathered September is what’s conveyed by this vivid saying.
- Jeżeli październik jest wietrzny i mroźny, to nie będzie za to styczeń, luty groźny.
- If October is cold and full of wind, January and February won’t be so bad, on the other hand.
Here’s something for those who make a fuss about the dreariness of Polish autumns – if you endure an October that’s cold and windy, there’ll be a lighter winter awaiting you. Perhaps that isn’t such a bad trade-off?
- Gdy październik ciepło trzyma, zwykle mroźna bywa zima.
- When in October there’s warm weather, a freezing winter usually comes hither.
Clearly, there must be something about October that makes it a good predictor of the winter weather, since it plays that role in more than one saying. Apparently, if you experience pleasant warmth in October, you’re in for a very, very cold winter
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- Po świętej Urszuli trudno wyjść w samej koszuli.
- After St. Ursula is gone it’s hard to go out in just a nightgown.
St. Ursula’s Day is on 21st October. After that date, the temperature goes down and can get really cold, preventing one from leaving their house without wearing a jacket or coat of some sort.
- Jaka pogoda listopadowa, taka i marcowa.
- Do remember, such is the March weather, as is the weather in November.
Whereas October can apparently tell us something about the weather in January and February, November can, according to this saying, announce the weather in March. So it seems that if you keep a close watch on the weather throughout autumn, you’ll know what the weather will be like in, basically, the entire upcoming winter.
- Czasem czasy bywają, że już Wszyscy Święci w bieli przyjeżdżają.
- Sometimes there are such times that it’s white when all the Saints arrive.
All Saint’s Day is celebrated in Poland on 1st November. This charming little saying shows that on that day, even though it falls in autumn, not winter, you may have snow. However, it ought to be said that, due to climate change, snow on All Saint’s Day is encountered in Poland less and less often.
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- Słońce listopada mrozy zapowiada.
- The November sunshine announces very cold times.
This is a somewhat ambiguous saying as it doesn’t specify when the ‘very cold times’ announced by the November sun shall occur. But perhaps this lack of accuracy is what makes this old saying true. After all November is always followed, sooner or later, by the winter cold.
- Grudzień to miesiąc zawiły, czasem srogi, czasem miły.
- December is a month that’s tricky, sometimes nice, sometimes heavy.
As a month marked by the transition of autumn into winter, December can be a bit of both. Sometimes, it can still be surprisingly warm, when other times, winter can be in full swing, with temperatures dropping well below 0°C and heavy snowfalls.
- Mroźny grudzień, wiele śniegu, żyzny roczek będzie w biegu.
- A cold December with lots of snow, heralds a fertile year, you know.
This is another example of a month saying addressed to farmers. Based on the December weather, it makes predictions about the agricultural conditions in the upcoming year. So, if you’re bothered with a cold and snowy December, you can always think of it this way: the farmers will benefit and therefore so will you!
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- W Wigilię deszcz, w długą zimę wierz.
- Rain on Christmas Eve, in a long winter you’d better believe.
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The last saying on our list we can actually verify ourselves as in parts of Poland it was raining during this past Christmas Eve. But, given that plenty of people – including the author – are anxious for spring to come, let’s hope it proves wrong!
Written by Marek Kępa, Dec 2019. Verse translations also by MK.