These three came to be associated with safe planting.
You’ve probably never heard of St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, or St. Servatius. But if you’re dealing with the snow that fell in Colorado a couple days ago, or if you covered your tomatoes against the frost warnings that were in effect for much of the Midwest, then you have good reason to befriend these holy helpers. They are known as the Ice Saints.
- St. Mamertus was the bishop who introduced us to the days of prayer and fasting known as Rogation Days. He died in 475.
- St. Pancras is a much-loved boy saint in some areas. He was beheaded in the year 313 during the persecution of Christians under the emperor, Diocletian. He was only 14 years of age, yet refused to reject his Christianity.
- St. Servatius was bishop of Tongeren (now the Netherlands). Early biographies of Servatius suggest he was born in Armenia and was a cousin to John the Baptist, and thus a distant cousin of Jesus. He died in 384.
These three saints are celebrated on May 11, May 12, and May 13, respectively.
It seems their association with the weather started in northern Europe, where April can bring several bright sunny days, but May might also include a late frost or two.
The unstable weather makes it too risky to plant, and trees that dare to blossom too early are sure to suffer the effects.
This late frost was associated by many with the saints of these three days, and it was thought that those days in particular were the days when a late frost would occur. Hence planting could only occur after the celebration of the Ice Saints!
Various other spring traditions were held off till after these mid-May feast days.
So as we deal with this year’s unusually cold weather, we humbly ask the Ice Saints to pray for us all.