There are two maxims about the Rose Parade that everyone in Pasadena knows: There’s never a parade on a Sunday, and it doesn’t rain on the parade. The first has always been true since the first time Jan. 1 fell on a Sunday in 1893 and the parade was moved to Jan. 2. The second—well, 10 rainy days in 125 years isn’t a bad batting average.
What about the 126th Rose Parade on Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015? There’s as chance of showers on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Thursday is forecast to be mostly clear. The writer has known it to shower right up to step-off at 8 a.m., when the skies open up and the California sunshine pours through. It will be cold, though, with a low of 34 degrees and a high of only 56 degrees. In any case, the parade goes on whether it rains or freezes or is 80 degrees with the bands wearing wool uniforms.
Some say that the sunshiny days the Tournament of Roses has enjoyed are God smiling on the parade due to the “Never on Sunday” rule—read more about that by clicking on the link—but the rule was made for practical purposes involving horses, not for religious reasons. And there have been those 10 days, the first being just two years after the first Jan. 2 parade.
The rainy years were closer together in the beginning, every few years: 1895, 1899, 1906, 1910, 1916, 1922, 1934, 1937. Then came a break of 18 years to 1955, when Chief Justice Earl Warren was the Grand Marshal, and a hiatus of a whopping 51 years to 2006, when Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was Grand Marshal, which has led some to hold a superstition regarding Supreme Court Justices.
Most of the rainstorms have been mild, but two years brought deluges. The first was 1934, when the theme was “Tales of the Seven Seas.” No watery themes since then. In 2006, it rained buckets with wind gusts of about 30 miles per hour. Your poor Tournament of Roses Examiner was soaked to the bone through four layers of clothing.
If God held back in the past because of the piety of the founders, the parade of 2006 was a blow to the faith. Sure, a Supreme was the GM, but the parade was on Monday, Jan. 2 that year, in observance of the Never on Sunday rule. Is God more upset with the high court than he is pleased with the Sunday worshipers? Well, maybe God doesn’t really care either way. Both 1899 and 1922 were also held on Monday, Jan. 2, so that’s a .300 batting average for Jan. 2 rainstorms. That could get you a raise in Major League Baseball.
Now about those New Year’s Day Sundays: We’ve often read the statement that the Rose Parade is on Jan. 2 every seven years, and that statement hasn’t really been questioned because, after all, there are seven days in a week. In fact, in the history of the parade, New Year’s Day has never fallen on Sundays seven years apart! The typical repeating pattern of intervening years is six-five-six-eleven. The reason, of course, is that every four years is a leap year. This pattern was only interrupted once, due to 1900 not being a leap year.
Counting 1893, there have been 18 parades on Jan. 2. The last was 2012, the next will be 2017 (five years). When a Jan. 2 parade occurs in a non-leap year, the parade is held on Monday two years in a row—this has happened 14 times—but when it occurs in a leap year, the next parade is on Tuesday. The reason this knowledge is useful is that you can impress your friends by quickly spouting off the years upcoming Rose Parades will be on Jan. 2 just by using simple math. Up to 2100, which isn’t a leap year. But who need to know past that?
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