It’s the third full week of January, and though we are one month past Winter Solstice and the sunlight is growing stronger each day, statistics show that this is the time of year when we actually experience the coldest temperatures.
The data from NOAA shows that the coldest temperatures in our region are usually reached sometime between January 21st and the 25th, whereas the folks at sparkweather.com say the coldest night is usually January 29th.
The English poet John Keats immortalized this chilly season in his poem, “The Eve of St. Agnes”, which follows the tradition that the coldest night of the year is always the eve of the Feast of St. Agnes, which comes on January 20th each year. Agnes was a 4th century Roman girl who was martyred for her refusal to marry the prefect’s son because she claimed devotion to Christianity. She was 13.
Several centuries later, ideas developed around the eve of her feast day, that certain rituals performed on this coldest night could inspire a dream about one’s future mate and true love. If you partake of these rituals, like fasting through supper or walking backward up the stairs, or undressing by the light of the Moon, then you may be blessed with a visionary dream. One of the rituals is to bake and eat a “dumb cake” which is a salty confection prepared with friends in silence.
Or you could read John Keats’ poem, in which he describes the story of Madeline and her beloved Porphyro, two lovers disappearing through the night like this week’s waning crescent Moon, slipping past Mars as the sleeping guardian at the gate and beyond the mortal clutches of the Scorpion, into eternity.
Link to John Keats' poem "Eve of St. Agnes."