Category Archives: Cold Sophie

Where Summer Spends Winter

German weather lore suggests that the middle of May will bring each year a blast of cold weather, which very often is winter’s last hurrah until its return on the other side of the year. We’ve come to believe in Cold Sophie (or some more subtle version of her) even here in Lake Worth, which early settlers dubbed “The Town Where Summer Spends Winter.” We typically don’t get many cold days each winter––mostly they are mild and pleasant––but by the start of May we know for sure that summer is a’knocking, and yet it’s surprising how often mid May can bring just one more dose of mild temperatures. Once that fleeting day or two is gone, though, that’s it: summer is here to stay. Very often, those blissful days come right about now.

The Germans call this time Kalte Sophie: Cold Sophie. She is St. Sophia, whose feast day is celebrated on the 15th of May each year. But Sophie comes with an entourage, who, collectively, are known as the Ice Saints, or die Eisheiligen. They are St. Mamertus, whose feast day was on the 11th, St. Pancras on the 12th, St. Servatius on the 13th, and on the 14th, we remember St. Boniface, before we finally welcome in Kalte Sophie. They are known as the Ice Saints for their feast days often are accompanied by the final frost of the season, or at least a sharp drop in temperature… and if you were in a rush to get your garden planted before the Ice Saints have made their appearance, you may need to start over again once they’ve passed.

In Central Europe, particularly Slovenia, you might hear St. Sophie called Poscana Zofka… Pissing Sophie, for there, she is associated with rain. Which is probably more accurate for us here in Lake Worth, too. It is the time of year when we typically look to the skies and wonder if it will ever rain again, as we wait for our summer rainy season to kick in and quench the parched earth… making our strange land green again.

Image: Cold Sophie herself? A fresco from St. Sophia Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Circa 11th century. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.


Ramadan & the Ice Saints

With tonight’s new moon this 15th of May, the holy month of Ramadan begins. For those of the Muslim faith, it is a month of prayer, almsgiving, and most especially fasting. During the daylight hours, not even water is taken. But this daily period of deprivation is rewarded once the sun has set with good nighttime meals. A common food to break the fast each night is Harira, a traditional Moroccan soup made from chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, and onions in a broth spiced with cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, chiles, and cumin. Harira is served all year long, but it is especially plentiful at Ramadan. I plan on making some this week, and maybe you’d like to, as well. There are many variations, some with meat, some vegetarian, some with egg and some with noodles, and all manner of spices. But here’s the recipe I’ll be using:

1 onion, chopped finely
Olive oil
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup dried red lentils
2 cans chopped tomatoes
Dried chiles, for a little heat (or 1 teaspoon chili powder)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt & Pepper
Flat leaf parsley, chopped
Lemon wedges

In a large pot, cook the onion in some olive oil until it is translucent. Add the chickpeas and the broth. Bring to a boil, then add the lentils, tomatoes, and spices. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil again and simmer for a half hour or so, until the lentils are mushy and the soup has thickened. Ladle into bowls, finishing off each serving with a bit of fresh olive oil, chopped parsley, and a lemon wedge for squeezing. This recipe makes about 6 to 8 servings.

In places like Morocco, this simple yet hearty soup is often the first thing folks take to break their fast with the setting sun. It is a bit of spiritual and physical nourishment. Other wonderful things follow, and often the feasting goes on well into the night. And then to bed… until the tabbal, the drummer, wends his way through the dark and empty streets to awaken everyone for the final meal before sunrise, usually bread with mint tea. And so each day goes in this month of fasting until the next new moon.

This year, the start of Ramadan coincides with the arrival of Cold Sophie, who, according to German legend, brings a blast of cold weather, winter’s last hurrah. But they say it’s been such a long and cold winter that I’m not going to give Sophie any attention at all. She and her fellow Ice Saints have had a ball of it this year, so enough of that. She can have some Harira with us if she wants, but that’s it. We’ve got our sights set on summer.

Image: My husband may be a potter, but I still can’t help buying bowls I like from other potters, too. These porcelain bowls are brand new additions to our collection. They’re by local potter Nena Escobar. I found them just last week, and I suspect we’ll be eating Harira out of them this week. Oh and if you do want to read more about Cold Sophie and the Ice Saints, well… here’s an earlier Book of Days chapter about them.


The Ice Saints & Cold Sophie

It rained here last Friday, the sort of rain we get when a cold front comes through, a wide swath of it coming down diagonally across the peninsula. We won’t be seeing much of this for a while, not while summer is here. Friday’s may very well have been the last cold front we’ll see until next fall. In its wake came perfect weather: cool and dry. It lasted for days and days and still it is pretty pleasant out, to be honest. I like to think it was our brush with Cold Sophie and the Ice Saints. Maybe they came a bit early this year.

May 11, today, is the feast day of St. Mamertus. Tomorrow, the 12th, St. Pancras. On the 13th we remember St. Servatius and on the 14th, St. Boniface, and then on the 15th, Cold Sophie herself: St. Sophia. In old German weather lore, this group of saints, led by Sophia, are known as the Ice Saints, die Eisheiligen. Kalte Sophie or Cold Sophie is their ringleader, and she and the Ice Saints are thought to bring one last blast of cold air before summer finally settles in. And so today they begin to make their entrance on the scene. If you live in a place that is more temperate than ours, you may experience colder temperatures than you have been, and if you do, you can give a nod to Cold Sophie and the Ice Saints. Cold Sophie may have come early to Lake Worth this year, but for all of you in cooler climes, take care. Avoid planting cold-sensitive crops until after the days of Cold Sophie and the Ice Saints have run their course. A good story, and good common sense, too.

Image: A fresco from St. Sophia Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Circa 11th century. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.