Forcing a snow day -- What kid traditions do you know about?
December 16, 2013 6:07 AM   Subscribe

The kids in my town (philly burbs) have certain rituals they follow to "cause" school to be canceled the next day when snow is forecast. Specifically: sleeping with a spoon under your pillow and turning your pajamas inside out. Also heard this year: flushing ice down the toilet. I never had these growing up, and I'm wondering if it's a regional thing, a thing new to this generation, or if other superstitions exist/existed along these lines.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up in (and now teach in) NJ and I am familiar with the inside out PJs and flushing ice down the toilet superstitions. I don't think I remember any others.
posted by katie at 6:09 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had lots of weird localized kid rituals in Maryland growing up. Not these, and not about snow days, but equally as weird. Kids are weird, groups of kids extra weird.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:18 AM on December 16, 2013

I grew up in DC and we did backwards PJs and a variety of snow dances. (Though to be honest, I also once had a snow day without any snow in DC proper-- it doesn't take a lot for schools in the Maryland suburbs to close!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:21 AM on December 16, 2013

We did the PJs in upstate NY.
posted by jph at 6:22 AM on December 16, 2013

Jammies inside out were a snow-day causing ritual in Atlantic Canada. We also had a bit of a "don't jinx it!" thing too, where if anyone said anything about the possibility that there would be a snow day it would jinx the whole thing and a snow day wouldn't happen. So no one talked about it, and everyone wore their jammies inside out. I know teachers who still do the jammies inside out thing.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:23 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Which is surprising, come to think of it, because to my knowledge, no one in upstate NY has ever wanted more snow. Ever.)
posted by jph at 6:24 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

The inside-out pajamas were definitely a thing in late 80s/early 90s NJ.
posted by Stacey at 6:24 AM on December 16, 2013

We upstate kids (518) always wanted more snow, but we never had rituals.
posted by jgirl at 6:28 AM on December 16, 2013

Maryland, 1980s. I agree on "don't jinx it," but we also had a snow dance with accompanying chant.


There were arm gestures involved.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:30 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Inside-out pajamas and a spoon under the pillow was the ritual spoken of in my childhood (southeastern CT), but I never actually did it... or knew of anyone else doing it, for that matter. But we all knew that was the ritual.
posted by pemberkins at 6:30 AM on December 16, 2013

I'm 31 and grew up in the Pacific Northwest - we wore our pajamas backwards rather than inside-out. My friends and I also developed our own snow ritual, which mostly consisted of fervently reciting the Winnie the Pooh "the more it snows - tiddly-pom" poem (before it was turned into a song in one of the movies).
posted by skycrashesdown at 6:32 AM on December 16, 2013

We also had snow dances in mid-coast Maine. I don't remember any words to the dance, just stamping in a circle with vague arm-waving. However, this was around the time of this Calvin and Hobbes, so it may have been in imitation of that.
posted by pie ninja at 6:33 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Southern Ontario in the 90s -- you were NOT to speak of it the night before. Any kid caught speaking of it was to be blamed, heartily, and with much ire. Other than that, nothing, and I've never even heard of most of these.
posted by AmandaA at 6:33 AM on December 16, 2013

This is fascinating. Grew up in southern Wisconsin, and nothing like this existed there except the don't-jinx-it-by-talking-about-it taboo.
posted by dr. boludo at 6:37 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

90s DC burbs had inside out and backwards jammies, snow dances and chants.

Also numerous elaborate things that my townie friend (I'd only lived there a year, from Texas, so snow days were absolutely novel) decided to make up for fun and convince me to do with her, including stuff like constructing marshmallow snowmen and praying to them like little gods. It took me a year before I figured out those were bupkiss, but we did them anyway, because marshmallows.

The simplest snow chant was just the word "snow" drawn out in a very familiar tune that I can't identify from anywhere else. You were supposed to wave your arms above your head back and forth, too.

Oh, also, you weren't supposed to have hot chocolate the day before because you would jinx it.
posted by Mizu at 6:37 AM on December 16, 2013

My 11-year-old son here in central VA has been turning his pajamas inside out to help with snow since he started kindergarten. Don't know where he picked that up, as my older daughter never did or said anything about it.
posted by kuanes at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2013

Huh. Grew up in Boston and its suburbs and never heard of any of these (or any other) rituals. There wasn't even a specific focus on not jinxing it.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Huh. Grew up in Boston and its suburbs and never heard of any of these (or any other) rituals. There wasn't even a specific focus on not jinxing it.

This was exactly my experience.
posted by jessamyn at 6:40 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's one that people over the age of 30 from Rochester, NY will appreciate:

One Sunday evening, I really didn't want to go to school the next day. The weather forecasts said there might be ice issues that night, so I started chanting "ICE STORM! ICE STORM! ICE STORM!"

That date? March 3, 1991.
posted by Lucinda at 6:42 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I used to empty all of our ice cube trays onto the driveway the night before, in supplication to the snow gods. I'm pretty sure I made that one up on my own.
posted by duffell at 6:43 AM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

This may end up being very specific to certain school districts or social groups because I grew up in central CT, went to several different schools, and never heard any of these, although there are other "common kid knowledge" things that I remember that other friends in the region don't.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:44 AM on December 16, 2013

Prayer. Lots and lots of bargaining with God for a huge pile of snow.

Otherwise, I have never heard of any rituals to create a snow day. I grew up in Minneapolis in the 1980's.
posted by Elly Vortex at 6:55 AM on December 16, 2013

I grew up in Minnesota and we pretty much just went to bed every night in the winter, sure that there'd be snow along soon. (But to get an actual snow day required such a storm that most of us were too fearful to dare attempt a summoning in case, like, Godzilla arose from the bottom of Mille Lacs or something.)

I live in New England now, and I still have never heard of rituals like this.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:58 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Cincinnati, my middle school English teacher would instruct us to put toothpaste on our noses and do a snow dance. I never did either of those things, but it was definitely an accepted pre-snow-day ritual.
posted by coppermoss at 7:00 AM on December 16, 2013

I grew up in SE Virginia, and don't recall any rituals designed to create a snow day.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:10 AM on December 16, 2013

Grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY. I only heard of the pajamas inside out or backwards thing when I was a little older, like middle school or high school age.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 7:13 AM on December 16, 2013

We had none of these rituals in 1980s Houston but I am going to plant the seed in the next generation by instructing the kids around me to do these things if the weather gets bad this winter.
posted by vincele at 7:26 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, I grew up in the Buffalo suburbs too, and I don't remember any of these! Maybe the PJs inside out sounds slightly familiar, but definitely not a major part of my childhood. How fun!
posted by misskaz at 7:27 AM on December 16, 2013

Tennessee here. I've heard that kids in my town put crayons in the freezer to ensure a snow day. I think a specific color, too, but I'm not sure which one.
posted by zoetrope at 7:33 AM on December 16, 2013

Some of our kids, seemingly out of nowhere, started up with the inside-out and backwards PJs the other night. Also the ice flushed down the toilet. I had never heard of this, but they said they got it from their friends. I take this to mean the kid grapevine of rituals is alive and well in Middle Tennessee.
posted by jquinby at 7:37 AM on December 16, 2013

My kids did the jammies inside out thing. Never did anything in the 70's when I was a young un.

When they got to high school, they use the snow day calculator
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:39 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Grew up in the 80s in Boston suburbs. Never heard of any of this.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2013

Our Latin teacher in NJ had a love of snow days and would encourage us all to "think snow" before falling asleep.

In younger days I remember a lot of chanting "snow snow snow!" and running around in a circle.
posted by The Whelk at 7:52 AM on December 16, 2013

I grew up in Northern Virginia, and remember inside out pajamas and making sure we did all our homework (sly ploy) because if we left it thinking there would be a snowday we'd definitely have school.

I never heard of ice flushing but I have seen parents talking about it on Facebook.
posted by sweetkid at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2013

Grew up in suburban Cleveland, and never had any sort of ritual. Weird.
posted by kathrynm at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2013

Grew up in Rhode Island, and never heard of any of these.
posted by absquatulate at 8:47 AM on December 16, 2013

I grew up in Massachusetts (central) and like Rock Steady and Jessamyn, I don't remember any rituals or "don't jinx it" superstitions for ensuring snow days.
posted by usonian at 8:50 AM on December 16, 2013

I grew up in Iowa, and we never did anything beyond hopin' and wishin'.
posted by BrashTech at 9:10 AM on December 16, 2013

I grew up not too far from Philadelphia and never heard any of these, but that was the late 60s and early 70s. I heard all of these from my kids in Syracuse.
posted by maurice at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2013

I attended various schools in northern Illinois, central Michigan, and central Indiana and I never experienced any snow day rituals other than 'get your homework done.' My children attend school in Cincinnati (first public, now private) and they have never done any snow day rituals.
posted by cooker girl at 9:56 AM on December 16, 2013

Nothing special in terms of Superstition in 80s/90s South Central PA.

We just tried to bargain with a/the higher power.

posted by PlutoniumX at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2013

First off, as long as there is a possibility of a snow day - there will be prayer in school... it may not be denominational - but there will be prayer.

As far as superstitions, the big one for us was this:
Unless there were blizzard conditions, do not turn on the TV or radio to listen to the cancellations until after 6:30AM. Don't talk about the possibility of a cancellation. Don't fail to get ready.

If you turned it on before 6:30, you would have school. On days where there was the possibility of snow cancelling school, we would unplug the TV and bring the portable radio out and place it prominently on the kitchen table like a shrine. We would eat our breakfast, get dressed, get our bags in order... and we would be ready. We would use binoculars to look down the street to watch the Bus Garages and see whether or not the bus drivers were getting ready - but even when we didn't see them did we didn't make the mistake of thinking that we were out of the woods.

This arose from it coming true so many times. Growing up in Costal Maine, I knew the exact locations of every town that would be identified on the ticker, and because we wound up with generally milder weather. Bangor/Brewer cancelling? It meant nothing. Ellsworth Cancelling? Maybe there was a possibility. Lamoine Cancelling? Well, there's 16 kids that won't have to go to our high school today - but if we'd checked beforehand we would still be heading to school.

The superintendent lived not too far from his office at the high school and he was a very determined driver. If he could make it to school - then by golly - the bus drivers were going to be able to as well. There were days where this was flat out insane logic - but this was definitely the case

Somehow we would have missed the school busses passing our house, or somehow they would get just enough plowing done... any way it went - we were going to have school. Our bus drivers had nerves of steel. Hell, us screaming and roaming around in the back during the good weather just gave them enough grit to survive the bad weather... just in the bad weather, if the bus driver stopped the bus, stood up and snarled at us to shut up and sit in our seats - you did it*.

*Note on this one: I had much less experience with the bus than my classmates. Generally I walked to school (0.1 miles away). My classmates - and their reports from 'the front lines' pretty much indicated that the Seal Cove bus driver didn't put up with any noise or bullying on the bad weather days... in many ways those were the best rides for some kids, since the bullies generally were made to shut up and stay seated. This held true through high school; however there were no bullies on the high school bus, and my high school bus driver seemed to operate on a "I just took a major dose of Valium" level... Really, on those days - there was prayer in school a second time.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I grew up on the Jersey Shore and had never heard it. Where I first encountered it was in teaching kindergarten in Philadelphia in 1996. Looking at the comments, there definitely seems to be a Mid-Atlantic epicenter. It's kid culture, and so it's going to travel in funny/spotty ways, like when one family moves to another state and it catches on in the local school community there. Kid culture spreads through peer networks first.
posted by Miko at 10:30 AM on December 16, 2013

Grew up on Long Island in the late 80s/early 90s.

The ONLY superstition I EVER heard of was that you were not to talk about the possibility of snow the night before.

I suspect it may be a regional thing. I lived in the Boston area for a while, and never got wind of any traditions of the sort. Living in the Baltimore/DC area now, I am now hearing about the inside-out PJs thing and about snow dances. However, I have no kids and don't have many friends with kids, so what I've heard about has been talk from co-workers with kids.
posted by tckma at 11:17 AM on December 16, 2013

I worked for the Buffalo Public School System as an administrator for many years. It was a fact that at least one school superintendent would base the decision to close the schools in part on if his/her dog would go outside. If it was too cold/nasty for the dog, it was too much for the kids and the schools would close.

The staff caught on to this, and those of us who had dogs would run the "Snow Dog" test the night before a possible snow day. My neighbors to the north and south were teachers, and they ran the "Snow Dog" test and would call me (and others) with the results.

Your predictive success depended heavily on the breed of dog you owned. My northern neighbor had a German Shepard mix (named "Stalin") that went outside for EVERYTHING. I owned a Shi Zu that NEVER went outside in the rain or snow.

YMMV, but other teachers/administrators ran the "snow dog" test with varying results.
posted by Colonel Sun at 12:18 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Continuing the "snow gods" theme, we did snow dances too. Like Calvinball, these were never the same twice.

FWIW, I grew up in Seattle.
posted by duffell at 12:50 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only superstition I remember was that if you didn't do your homework, we'd have school. If you were prepared for school, we'd get the snow day. NJ/Pennsylvania, late 70s to early 80s.
posted by bink at 1:20 PM on December 16, 2013

> I'm 31 and grew up in the Pacific Northwest - we wore our pajamas backwards rather than inside-out

I'm currently raising kids in the Pacific Northwest and have never encountered this. (Not for my kids, and not for me.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:01 PM on December 16, 2013

One more voice for "snow dances" in the DC suburbs. (And, seriously, if there's anywhere where grade-schooler-level magic could get the schools closed for snow, it's the DC metro area.) Don't think I ever actually saw anyone do one, but it was a known idea and even referenced by teachers. I vaguely recall walking around in the yard barefoot the night before possible snow days as a kind of demonstration of dedication, but that may have been my own invention.
posted by ostro at 8:01 PM on December 17, 2013

I'm 33 and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I've never heard of any of these rituals or dances before. I did, however, mention to my daughter that Ask Metafilter says to wear your pajamas inside out if you want snow. She said she'd try it and spontaneously said snow could use a dance too and started waving her arms above her head.
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:09 PM on December 18, 2013

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