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GRANDMA SAYS: Lion or lamb – it’s in the stars!

Spring... it can go either way in Atlantic Canada.  It's always good to be prepared!
Spring... it can go either way in Atlantic Canada. It's always good to be prepared! - Contributed

This is it!  The last day of February, the final day of meteorological winter!  Should we celebrate?  Well, Grandma would hold off on the celebrations until she put one of her favourite expressions to the test.

After “red sky at night…”, “In like a lion out like a lamb” is without a doubt the most recited weather proverb.  Grandma loved it.  She looked forward to the first day of March for weeks.  We know how this one goes: if the weather is stormy on March 1, the month should go out on a quiet note, and vice versa.

Now, I’m about to flip that around.  This weather saying goes back centuries and is a little different from the others. You might even question whether it is indeed a weather expression. 

Most weather lore is based on careful observation of nature’s cycles and animal behaviour. 

Well there are no lions on the farm but there was a famous lion high above the old gray barn: Leo the Lion.  According to astronomers, “In like a lion, out like a lamb” may have originated from ancient observations of the stars.  In the springtime, two of the constellations visible just after the sun goes down are Leo the “lion” and Aries the “ram” or “lamb.”

Leo rises in the east at the same time Aries sets in the west.  While this happens throughout the year at varying times, it’s most visible at night in early March.  If the sky was clear on March 1 and Leo was spotted overhead, it was believed that since the lion had ushered in the month, it would end on a quiet note.  Conversely, if clouds covered the night sky on the first day of March, then the lion would roar at the end of the month – and the weather would be stormy. 

That’s just the opposite of what Grandma believed.

So which is it?  Well, I’ve not had time to go over the cloud cover, but, based on the original understanding of the expression that takes the weather into account, it’s more right than wrong.  Over the past 20 years, the popular weather saying was correct 14 times.  

The proverb might not be well understood – or even terribly accurate – but it does somehow manage to bring some hope after a long cold winter. 

Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

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