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What Is An Onion Snow?

Isn't winter over? What does this kind of snow have to do with spring? Find out!

At the Farmers’ Almanac, we get a lot of questions about the weather, of course, but we also receive a lot of inquiries regarding weather folklore and weather terms that originate from different parts of the country.

One such term is “onion snow,” which, despite its name, actually has a lot to do with springtime.

What is an Onion Snow?

“Onion snow” is a term particular to the state of Pennsylvania originated by the Pennsylvania Dutch culture and language, and refers to a snowfall that occurs after the spring onions have been planted, and comes right as they are sprouting.  Others say that this late spring snow is an indicator for when it’s a good time to start planting onions. Either way, the snowfall is defined as light and melts quickly, and is usually the final snowfall before the end of the spring season.

With many parts of the country getting snow well into springtime, it makes perfect sense that specific regions would have their own colloquial terms for snows that hit around the time of planting crops.

Another late-spring snow term to originate from the Pennsylvania Dutch is a “sapling bender,” referring to when it snows heavily in the spring, bending the branches of the new saplings.

onion_snow2
“Onion Snow” photo by Marie Freeman, Appalachian University Photographer.

Check out our fun Snow Lore….

Susan Higgins is the Farmers' Almanac's Web Content Editor & Social Media Manager. She is a freelance writer/editor, copywriter, blogger, and writer of short fiction. Her passions are advertising, cooking, the ocean, libraries, pets & animal welfare, Netflix binges, and finding the perfect book at her local library.

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Steven jury

It’s snowing heavily on this May 9th day @1:50pm. I refuse to plant anything until it warms up. Brrr…come on please.

Brad

Yep, snowed half the day here in N Pa. My car still has a bunch on the windshield.

Chester

I’ve head the late snowfall being called ‘poor man’s fertilizer’

Ruth Wren

AH the Onion Snow. I grew in Bethlehem, Pa. at the edge of the Pennsylvania Dutch country had a Pennsylvania Dutch heritage myself. I always heard of the onion snow growing up. I went to Kutztown State College(now University) and had an anthropology course. The teacher, trying to illustrate how environment effects words told us that Eskimos had many, many words for different types of snow. He then asked how many words we could think of for snow. Blizzard, dusting, etc came up and I said Onion Snow. He replied there is no such thing as Onion Snow. Guess he wasn’t Pa Dutch, but he was in a college in the middle of the Dutch Country.Hopefully he heard of it later.

Mary Alice

Thank you. An 83-year-old neighbor called today’s snow “onion snow.” I said I thought that was the light dusting of snow, last snowfall of the season. She said I was wrong, that it can be heavy, deep snow (her mother told her so.)

I might print this out to show her; but, maybe I should just let it go, eh.

Bob Erickson

Last snow around the middle of May here

annie

In our neck of the woods in NW Pa. There is the Easter snow..and the onion snow…and the peepers have to through ice 3 times before spring is really here

Brad

N PA here. My grandma used to say the peep frogs had to freeze three times before spring arrived.

Sally Thompson

My step grandpa who was from PA originally always told me you had to have at least 3 “onion snows” after the first day of spring before it would get warm for the spring/summer. I’ve passed this along to my sons and we discuss it very year.

Skill

Wow so cool

Steven Knivila

‘Onion Snow’ here in the U.P. is snow on the newly sprouted Wild Leek leaves in the Spring.

Marilyn Wright

I remember the onion snow. One thing I want to point out is that Pennsylvania Dutch is incorrect, it is actually Pennsylvania Deutsche, the settlers were German descendants and not from Holland or the Netherlands. I was born in PA and miss it very very much here in hot hot Texas.

joni

It’s too bad that today’s generations don’t want to hear about things long past. I learned a lot from my grandma and listening to her stories and sage advice. People today just laugh and make fun. Just sad

SHAWNEE

I’ve heard these terms all my life, but didn’t know it was a PA thing lived here all 54 years !

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