the Eisheilge and other curiosities

on the evening of Heilige (Holy) Sophie

Couldn’t find anything in English about the Eisheilige, so at least until the bots find this corner of the web, this’ll be the lone English explanation. Not sure I like the pressure.

The Eisheilige could be translated as ‘icy holy days‘, and I’ve also heard these days called the gestrenge Männer (‘strict men‘). It’s a weather phenomenon in central Europe in the middle of May in which it often gets unseasonably cold. Some places it’s three days, some four or five, and finally there are even places that consider the Eisheilige to be a full six days.

The Wikipedia entry tells me they’re the Saints’ Name Days for 11-15 May…here they are listed:

  1. Mamertus – 11. Mai
  2. Pankratius – 12. Mai
  3. Servatius – 13. Mai
  4. Bonifatius – 14. Mai
  5. Sophie – 15. Mai

Purportedly, the stable spring weather can only occur after Holy Sophie is behind us. Sounds a bit unbelievable, doesn’t it? Like you can really predict the weather in such a way.

But here’s the thing. I’ve lived in Germany more than a decade now. More often than not Bavaria gets unseasonably cold for these several day in the middle of May. Almost without fail. And the rest of May is regularly quite beautiful. On this one, I’m going to trust the farmers. Just like Ben Franklin and his Farmer’s Almanac, they know what’s going on.

I’m sad to report that after the Eisheilige are past that we’re not quite done with such weather cycles. In June (sometime between the 4th and 20th of June…often exactly the 11th of June) we have the Schafskälte (cold sheep days). Again, there’s unseasonably cold weather. Not every year, but often enough that it’s even got a name. Named after the sheep. Not too shabby.


  1. I love this. It’s like whimsy and science and magic and religion and farming all rolled up into one. I want to write a poem about this. I mean seriously, “strict men” and “cold sheep days?” It’s like it’s writing itself.

    Also, I love the name Sophie.

    So, was it colder these past 5 days?

    1. Yes, curious stuff this. I’d never really thought about the meaning, so this was as good an excuse as any to read up. What about the “Hundstage” too, the “dog days” another curious name.

      1. Oh, good point Jackie…’dog days’ is also a curious term. Shall look into it…at one point, this blog was heading towards being a Dachshund blog.

        Dog days, indeed.

    2. Lucy, our good man spends too much time galavanting from vacation spot to vacation spot to notice what the weather’s like in Munich. Or maybe he reads up first, and then plans his escape to somewhere nice and warm.

    3. Isn’t Sophie a beautiful name? Definitely.

      Now that you mention it, this does seem to lend itself to poetry. You’re more than welcome to it. Let me know how it turns out.

      1. Oh, I think there’s a good chance you’ll see how it turns out, sooner than later. Soon-soon-sooner.

        Thanks. It’s been kicking in my head around all day. Just needs to be put on paper.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *