Spoons, Pajamas Figure into Snow-Day Superstition When it comes to snow days, some high-school students are taking matters into their own hands. In a recent article for the Hartford Courant, English teacher Mark Dursin reveals a little-known snow superstition among his students: "the Pajamas-Inside-Out, Spoon-Under-the-Pillow-Snow-Day Ritual."

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Schoolchildren across much of the country scan the skies and hopes that tomorrow will be a snow day. And some take matters into their own hands.

Mark Dursin, who teaches English at Glastonbury High School in Connecticut, learned that his students take extraordinary measures when the white stuff is forecast and he wrote about it in The Hartford Courant. He joins us now from the studios of member station WNPR.

Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. MARK DURSIN (English Teacher, Glastonbury High School, Connecticut): My pleasure, Neal. How are you?

CONAN: I'm well, thank you. And so when there's snow in the forecast, what do your students do?

Mr. DURSIN: Well, the snow day ritual is this: On the night before a potential snowstorm, if you wear your PJs on inside out and put a spoon under your pillow, you will have a day off from school the next day.

CONAN: Put on your pajamas inside out…

Mr. DURSIN: That's right.

CONAN: …and a spoon under your pillow.

Mr. DURSIN: That's right. That's according to my students.

CONAN: And do your students say that it works?

Mr. DURSIN: Well, some say that it does, some aren't sure, but they're not going to risk it.

CONAN: They're going to try it…

Mr. DURSIN: They're going to do it.

CONAN: They're going to try it anyway because if you don't do it…

Mr. DURSIN: Yeah.

CONAN: …that might jinx it.

Mr. DURSIN: I mean, this is high stakes. We're talking about a snow day here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Now, you've called this P-I-O-S-U-P-S-D-R.

Mr. DURSIN: That's right. Pajamas-inside-out-spoon-under-the-pillow snow day ritual.

CONAN: And as you researched this, you discovered this is not a phenomenon isolated to Glastonbury, Connecticut?

Mr. DURSIN: Well, that's what I thought. I thought this was just something my students did. But I did a little Internet sleuth thing and it seems all over the East Coast, people are doing it. I even heard a reference to the snow day ritual in Tennessee. I didn't even know it's snowed in Tennessee, but apparently, they have the ritual there.

CONAN: And the rituals everywhere are all the same?

Mr. DURSIN: I saw some variations. Some of them - some people eat an oatmeal cookie before they put on their pajamas inside out. Some lick the spoon before they put it under their pillow, but that just seems strange to me.

CONAN: And I wondered, I know you asked your students more about this, about this burning issue. For example, does it work if there is not snow in the forecast?

Mr. DURSIN: Yeah, I asked them that. They said, well, no I'm sorry. You can only do it when they're actually predicting snow. And I thought you could do it in May or something.

CONAN: Or might it have worked in May. That would be great. And also, does it work if you wear the pajamas backwards?

Mr. DURSIN: Well, yeah, I asked them that, too. Apparently not. This one girl told me that she wore them inside out and backwards but the big tag kept scratching her neck and chin all night. The next day, she had school and the rash on her neck and chin, so no go with that.

CONAN: I think we have an expert on the line with this.

Melanie(ph) is with us on the line from Gilford in Connecticut. Nice to have you on the program.

MELANIE (Caller): Thank you very much. I just want to let you know that I have an 11-year-old who truly subscribes to this. We are five children and this has been passed down from each of them to the next. And the last child - the last snowstorm we had, my daughter scoured the house for a spoon, teaspoons, put them under everybody's pillows, had everybody in the house wearing their pajamas inside out and backwards and sure enough, we had a snow day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DURSIN: It's true. Yeah.

CONAN: It worked.

Mr. DURSIN: We just had a snow day yet two weeks ago and my sons did it and it worked for a snow day.

CONAN: Aha. Was that the same storm, Melanie, that your daughter was spooning and inside-outing?

MELANIE: Oh, yes. And our little preschooler got into it, had to find all the toy teaspoons to go under her pillow. So it's a big tradition in our house and they love it.

CONAN: Okay. Thanks very much for the call. And let me ask you, you've been in touch with your spoons? Do you know where they are at this moment?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MELANIE: It was really funny because we did have to scour the house for all the spoons under all the pillows with all the children, yes.

CONAN: Okay. Thanks very much for the call.

MELANIE: Sure. Bye.

CONAN: Good luck for the next snow day. And I wanted to ask you, Mark Dursin, in the midst of this - you're dealing with high school seniors for the most part not 11-year-olds.

Mr. DURSIN: Right.

CONAN: And these…

Mr. DURSIN: That's right.

CONAN: …are hard-bitten, iPod-wearing techno freaks.

Mr. DURSIN: That's true and that's what I actually think was very refreshing about the whole thing, you know. They are so immersed in technology - their cell phones and iPods and FaceBooks and Wikipedias, but when there is a potential snowstorm, they're not going to go to weather.com. They're going to their kitchen to get out a spoon, a very low-tech spoon. I don't know, I think it's very refreshing. Very innocent.

CONAN: This belief in magic.

Mr. DURSIN: Belief - what I said in the article is belief in magic and wonder.


Mr. DURSIN: And I think we can all subscribe to that once in a while. I think we're losing a little bit of that.

CONAN: Now, I know you also, in your online research, said that some people throw ice cubes in the toilet in hopes of getting a snow day. And I know you asked your students about that, too.

Mr. DURSIN: Yeah. They didn't know about that one. In fact, one girl said, hmm, this is - somehow, that's silly. Putting the spoon under your pillow, that's okay, but throwing…

CONAN: That's okay. Ice cubes in…

Mr. DURSIN: Yeah.

CONAN: …the toilet? Well, that's beyond the pale.

Mr. DURSIN: That's just strange.

CONAN: Listeners, if you have other rituals for bringing on snow days, let us know about them. E-mail us talk@npr.org. And we'll read them in the Letters segment on Tuesday next week.

Mark Dursin, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. DURSIN: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Snow in the forecast tonight in Connecticut?

Mr. DURSIN: No, but you know, we don't know what the Groundhog is going to do, so we might have two more months of snow.

CONAN: Mark Dursin's column "The Secret Power of Pajamas" ran in the Hartford Courant. He joined us from member station WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut.

I'm Neal Conan, NPR News in Washington.

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