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St. Swithin's Day

Is it raining?

It’s St. Swithin’s Day today.

  St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
    Full forty days, it will remain
    St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
    For forty days, t'will rain no more.

Though the Met office will probably advise you otherwise, this weather-rhyme has been known in the British Isles since the days of Queen Elizabeth, and it’s true that for farmers through the centuries it’s been vital to keep an eye on rainfall and to judge the best time to harvest. As the well-known proverb goes, “make hay while the sun shines”.

Back in the 9th century, St. Swithun lived and worked as a Saxon Bishop in Winchester. It’s said that as he lay on his deathbed he asked to be buried out of doors, where the "sweet rain of heaven" would fall on his grave. When he was canonised, some years after his burial, however, it was decided that his remains should be moved to a shrine inside the cathedral. Following this, the legend goes, there was a heavy rain storm, a sign of Swithun’s displeasure and the origin of the old wives’ tale surrounding St. Swithin’s Day. As a result, St Swithun is also the perfect saint to pray to in cases of drought, or if, like St. Swithun and me, you just happen to like rain!

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