20 Winter Weather Folklore Sayings


Signs in nature of a cold winter

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The folklore of winter weather is fascinating. You’ll surely know some of these weather sayings passed down by generations living close to the land and nature. Which ones do you know?

Winter is the harshest season. The natural world—clouds, birds, animals, and plants—all provided cues to predict what the winter will bring! Generations of hunters, farmers, and fishermen relied upon this weather lore to predict storms and the severity of the coming winter.

Did you know that the study of weather proverbs is known as paremiology? Most are fanciful fun with no basis in scientific fact, while others have been found to have a kernel of truth at their core. No matter what, these old wives’ tales predicting winter weather are fun to observe!

Acorns… that fall heavily mean a cold winter is coming. Similarly, a large crop of walnuts means a snowy, cold season. Thick nutshells predict a severe winter. 
forest floor full of acorns

An abundant crop of berries is also a sign of a cold, snowy winter. Similarly, a plentiful crop of berries means the following winter will be cold.

Persimmon seeds… are an age-old way of predicting winter weather. (American persimmon trees grow in the wild in USDA Zones 4 to 9.) When you cut open a persimmon, the shape of the seed tells you if the winter will be cold or normal. If it’s spoon-shaped, expect snow to shovel! See how to predict the weather with a persimmon seed

ripe Persimmon on a table

Flowers… that have a second bloom in the fall or hold onto their blooms late in the season forecast a colder winter.  

Flowers bloomin’ in late Autumn,
A sure sign of a bad winter comin’.”

Leaves… which fall early, indicate winter will be mild. When leaves fall late, winter will be wild. An extra cold winter is in store if the leaves wither on the branches in October instead of falling. 

“When leaves fall early, Fall and winter will be mild;
When leaves fall late, Winter will be severe.”

Onion skins… which are thicker than usual, indicate a rough winter ahead.

Apple skins…which are tougher and thicker, also tell us a colder winter is expected.

Corn husks… which are thicker and tighter than usual, indicate a cold winter ahead.

Squirrels… with very bushy tails in the fall cue a colder winter. If squirrels stash their nuts high in the trees, the snow will be deep.

When squirrels early start to hoard,
winter will pierce us like a sword.”

Beavers… were important forecasters for Native Americans.  The thickness of their coats, the amount of body fat, where they hide their food caches, and how they build their winter dens were all used to predict winter weather. Indigenous peoples believed that the larger and stronger the beaver lodge, the harsher the winter to come.

When you see a beaver carrying sticks in its mouth,
it will be a hard winter—you better go south.”

beaver in the waterSee more about animals predicting the weather.

Birds… migrate early cue a severe winter. 

If robins… are seen near a house during the fall, the winter will be cold.

 When wild turkeys… perch in trees and refuse to come down, snow is imminent. If turkey feathers are unusually thick, look for a hard winter.

If the rooster moults before the hen, we’ll have winter thick and thin.
If the hen moults before the cock, we’ll have winter hard as a rock.”

roosters and hens
See more about birds predicting the weather.

If bees…build their nests in a protected spot, such as inside a barn or shed, expect a hard winter.

As high as the hornets build their nests, so will the snow be next winter.

“If ant hills… are high in July, Winter will be snowy.”

See more about insects predicting the weather.

The wooly bear caterpillar has long been a favorite of backyard weather predictors. (This is the larva of the Isabella moth.) The wider the brown band in the middle of the caterpillar, the milder the winter will be. Read more about the woolly worm.

Read more about the woolly worm.

Mushrooms galore, much snow in store. No mushrooms at all, no snow will fall.

How One Month Affects Another

“If a cold August follows a hot July, It foretells a winter hard and dry.”
“For every fog in August, There will be a snowfall in winter.”
“If the first week in August is unusually warm, The coming Winter will be snowy and long.”
“A warm October, A cold February.”
“As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.” (The coldest time of the year is mid-January, about three weeks after the shortest day.)

Weather Watching

Thunder in the fall foretells a cold winter.

If there is thunder in winter, it will snow seven days later.

Date of the First Snow

There are many similar variations in forecasting snow, based on the date of the very first snowfall.

  • The date of the first snowflakes tells how many times it will snow. Should the year’s first snow, for example, come down on the 12th of the month, you can expect 12 more storms before the winter’s done.
  • The number of days from Christmas when the first snowflakes fall will tell you how many times it will snow this winter.
  • The date of the first snowflakes plus the number of days past the new moon tells how many times it will snow this winter.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

How could we not include the Almanac itself? The newest edition is out in late August. Learn more about the Almanac winter forecast for this year.

Long ago, Ben Franklin said, “Some of us are weather-wise, and some are otherwise,” and our fascination with the weather continues to this day. Weather folklore is far from infallible in its predictions, but it is entertaining! 

About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser

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