St Swithin’s Day

The history of St Swithin’s Day

15th July is St Swithin’s Day. St Swithin was a bishop of Winchester. He was responsible for the building of many churches, as well as many apple trees! When he died in 862 AD, he was buried in the churchyard, as per his wishes. He’d requested that “the sweet rain of heaven may wet my grave.” Many miracles were thought to have occurred by his grave. 100 years later, his remains were placed inside the cathedral. When this happened, there was a dreadful storm, which people believed was evidence that his spirit was angry that he had been moved inside.

According to traditional folklore, whatever the weather is like on St Swithin’s Day – whether rain or sunshine – it will continue in this manner for the following 40 days and 40 nights.

St Swithin’s Day if thou dost rain, for forty days it will remain,

St Swithin’s Day if thou be fair, for 40 days ’twill rain nae mar.

Activity Ideas

Discussion and reminiscence

Hold a discussion group, sharing knowledge and memories of British sayings and folklore. The following list is a good starting point! You could try saying the first part of each line to your residents and challenge them to remember the rest of the sentence.

  • Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.
  • Ash before the oak, we will have a soak. Oak before the ash, we will have a splash.
  • Cast not a clout till May be out.
  • The cuckoo comes in April; he sings his song in May. He changes his tune in the middle of June, and then he flies away.
  • It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
  • A watched pot never boils.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.


A perfect film to show on St Swithin’s Day is Singing in the Rain! Incorporate the soundtrack into a short chair-based exercise routine.

You could have a singalong to songs which are linked to the weather, eg Singing in the Rain, You Are My Sunshine, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Blow the Wind Southerly, The Sun Has Got His Hat On, Here Comes the Sun, and It’s Raining Men. Print off song lyrics and encourage residents to sing and move along to the tunes.

Cook and eat

Make sure apples are incorporated into the menu today. Apple pie or crumble is an easy recipe for residents to make as a group. Assign residents the job of peeling, chopping, stirring, or spooning, depending on their ability.


Make a rain stick. These are wonderful aadditions to your supply of musical instruments!

You will need:

  • Sturdy cardboard tube
  • Packing tape
  • Small nails
  • Dried rice and/or beans
  • Ribbon or stickers for decoration


  1. Securely seal off one end of your tube with packing tape.
  2. Push in short nails – they should reach about halfway into your tube. Make sure you rotate the tube a quarter of a turn between each nail and have a gap of about 2cm in length of the tube between each. The idea is to have something inside for the beans to rattle over. If your tubes are too flimsy for nails, try crinkling up some tin foil and putting it inside the tube.
  3. Add your rice or beans and seal off the other end with packing tape.
  4. Cover the tube in tape so the nails don’t come out, and add stickers and tie on ribbons for decoration.
  5. Tip the tubes up and they should sound like rain!