Take a Weather Check
Saint Swithin’s Day is on 15 July
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of folklore and planning for the future.
Preparation and materials
- Have available an accurate weather forecast for the day ahead. A reliable source is available at: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/
- Ask the students, ‘What’s the weather like today?’
Listen to a range of responses.
- Announce that you have looked up today’s forecast.
Read out the weather forecast.
- Ask the students, ‘Does the forecast fit with the weather that we’re experiencing?’
Point out that you often find yourself wondering how the rest of the day will pan out. Explain that the weather forecast can be quite important when we are planning. Long-range weather forecasts cover several weeks ahead. It might be especially important to consult a forecast if we have a special event or holiday planned.
- Point out that 15 July is Saint Swithin’s Day. Swithin was Bishop of Winchester from 852 to 863. His dying wish was to be buried outside the cathedral, where the rain and the footsteps of passers-by could pass over his grave. Just over a century after his death, on 15 July 971, his tomb was moved inside the cathedral building. A terrible storm began that day and continued for the next 40 days, which people took as a sign that the saint was displeased because his dying wish had been overruled.
- Explain that there is a traditional rhyme that stems from this event, which goes like this.
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!
- The rhyme proposes that the weather on 15 July will dictate the weather pattern for the next 40 days. If it rains that day, there will be rain every day for the next 40 days. However, if the weather is fine that day, it will be fine for the next 40 days.
Ask the students, ‘How do we feel about that?’
Time for reflection
Ask the students the following questions.
- What are we like at predicting the future?
- Can you tell me what’s going to happen to you during the summer holidays?
Pause to allow time for thought.
In the Bible, Jesus had a very clear idea of what the future held for him. Time after time, during the last three years of his life, he told his followers that he would go to Jerusalem, that he would be persecuted and that eventually he would die there. Happily, he could reassure them that he would come back to life. Christians believe that this actually happened.
Jesus’ predictions were rarely accepted by his followers at face value. First, they couldn’t accept that he would deliberately put himself in danger. Second, they couldn’t accept that he would allow himself to be killed by the Jewish and Roman authorities, who clearly had none of the miraculous power that he had. Finally, it was beyond their understanding that a dead man could be brought back to life. It’s as if Jesus was telling his followers to expect the unexpected.
Most of us will have some plans for the next 40 days. We may be looking forward to those plans. We may have some reservations. We may have some dread. Just take the weather: will it remain like it is today? We can’t be sure.
After Jesus’ resurrection, his followers learned to expect the unexpected, to live one day at a time and to be prepared for whatever life threw at them. It was exciting living!
So, let’s take St Swithin’s Day with a pinch of salt. We can hope for sunshine and happy experiences, but perhaps we should pack a waterproof, just in case . . .
‘Here comes the sun’ by the Beatles, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQetemT1sWc (3.11 minutes long)
- Ask the students to find out about features of the weather that affect the UK. For example, what are jet streams? Ask them to carry out some research and translate their findings into simple language.