A few years ago, my family was hanging out with another family when the weather report came across the radio. We were supposed to get several inches of snow during a slow-moving winter storm. My kids were pumped for the chance to play in fresh snow, but my friends’ kids took their excitement to the next level. They went to the silverware drawer and grabbed spoons to put under their pillows before they went to bed. My kids and I were all intrigued. Why would you do that? Because spoons under the pillow is just one of several superstitions — er, foolproof ways — to guarantee a snow day.
I needed more information. But before I could ask about the spoon thing, the kids said they were going to wear their pajamas inside out and backwards because that also guarantees a snow day and a day off from school. And is there anything better than a snow day if you are a kid? Not much.
When my kids got home they promptly got spoons out of the drawer and eagerly turned their pajamas inside out and crawled into bed with the hopes of a middle-of-the-week day off. It worked. School was cancelled a few hours after they fell asleep, and when they woke up, they believed they had the power of snow deities.
Obviously this was true, but I wanted to know where these mystical powers originated. Turns out magic is harder to explain and it’s best to just enjoy the illusion. Other than anecdotal evidence, I couldn’t find scientific studies that explained how often and or why spoons under the pillow work. Some think a spoon represents a mini version of a shovel and when you wake up there will be so much snow that you have to dig yourself out so you better be prepared. One person referenced the old wives’ tale about putting a knife under a bed of a person in labor to cut the pain in half. The only connection seems to be the fact that people are putting faith into silverware. And other than parents finding fun ways for their kids to quickly put on their pajamas and get their asses into bed, I found zero journals behind the theory of backward PJs.
While researching, though, I learned that flushing ice cubes down the toilet, performing a snow dance, placing a white crayon in the freezer, shaking a snow globe, and stacking pennies on the windowsill are all said to give you more “weather-controlling power.” Be mindful with the pennies, though, because each penny represents an inch of snow.
Every time my kids learn there is the possibility for a snow storm they go through all of the rituals’ motions, and when the first big storm of the season was predicted this winter, they were ready. Soup spoons and ladles were picked over cereal spoons because bigger is better, apparently. And why risk destiny by not also turning your underwear inside out? To everyone’s delight it worked again, but they weren’t surprised. In the same way anyone believes in something, my kids — and kids all across snowy parts of the country — know the tricks to get what they want.
I wish I had had the knowledge as a kid that my kids have now when it comes to getting snow days. I remember standing on my front porch as a teenager and watching snow fall. It had been snowing all evening and there was a chance school would be cancelled the next day. While that was exciting, I also wanted to know either way, because I was supposed to take a test the next day. Should I study unnecessarily or risk not being prepared? Knowing who I am, I’m sure I just went ahead and studied, but it would have been nice to feel like I had some way to influence my desired outcome.
One could say it’s all superstition, but each time my kids have done it they have woken up to a snow day. Yes, there was a storm already predicted, but why take chances? And who says the ice cubes down the toilet didn’t create an extra layer of ice to the roads to make it unsafe for travel? What if the weather deities are upset that a soup spoon wasn’t offered?
The rituals hold magic; not the same as Santa or Tooth Fairy magic, because those beliefs come with more certain expectations. Santa may disappoint from time to time and sometimes the Tooth Fairy gets too busy one night and needs to skip a house or perhaps even forgets a few teeth — I get it, TF — but their missions are usually completed. Falling asleep with a spoon under your pillow is about knowing your luck could go either way, but choosing to embrace the idea that things are going to turn out the way you want them. The magic of a snow day is embedded in hope and wishful thinking with nothing to lose, and we can all use a little hope and something to look forward to these days … even if it means raiding the silverware drawer.
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