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Embering and Fasting

Credit: The Old Farmer's Almanac, associate editor Tim Goodwin.

Happy Ember Day!

Maybe you have heard of it or maybe you have not but the folklore, history and meaning are interesting and something to think about.

What are Ember Days?

Coinciding with the four seasons, ember days occurs four times a year for three days. Historically, they are opportunities to embrace the practices of prayer, fasting and abstinence and for the ordination of clergy to occur. Each set of Ember Days is a way to give thanks for specific natural gifts, such as the increase in daylight and the harvest times of wheat, grapes and olives.


Ember days are observed on the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays following the first Sunday in Lent, Whitsunday-Pentecost, the Feast of the Holy Cross, and the Feast of St. Lucia.

In 2024, Ember Days are observed on February 21, 23, and 24; May 22, 24, and 25; September 18, 20 and 21: and December 18, 20, 21.


It is believed that Ember Days observances date back to the time of Pope Leo I in the 5th century, when observers would thank God for the gifts of nature, embrace those gifts in moderation, and assist the needy. It is said in response to the excessive celebrations that surrounded the pagan festivals in Rome.


Folklore says the weather on each Ember Day foretells the weather for the next three months. For example in February, the Wednesday (today) forecasts the weather for March, Friday predicts April and Saturday foretells May.

Pennsylvania Dutch proverbs and sayings have a deep connection to Ember Days including the following:

  • Persons born on Ember Days can see ghosts,

  • Grain will be high in price if the Ember Days come late in the month

  • Rain on Ember Day is followed by three weeks of rain

  • Washing on an Ember Day is unlucky

I'm all for the last one. Happy Ember Day!

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