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"I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" Nashville?

December 24, 2022

Am I dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones Nashville used to know? Sure, why not. Just as long as it's safe to drive in for all. If there's one thing all Nashvillians know (born and raised here or transplants), it's that wintry weather and local traffic DO NOT mix. And apparently never have, according to this 1962 Nashville Banner cartoon...


Nashville Banner clipping from January, 1962

But of any day of the year, the Christmas holiday and snow are simply kismet, right? If you said no to that, indulge me a bit. In many places further north, I'm sure snow is a very common thing during this time of year. But in Nashville - ha, definitely not. 

Once Upon a Time, Nashville Had December Snow!

MTA Collection - view of streetcar system running in the snow
Street car running while streets are covered in snow, circa 1940's. MTA Collection.

I came across a news article from 1912 (see below), that talks about weather during the Christmas holiday. More common than any precipitation, there's been "bright and pleasant" weather. According to the article, on nine occasions, there's been rain. And on eight occasions, it has snowed. 

However, when I did the math again reading through each of the weather reports provided, I counted eleven times it snowed on Christmas. I don't know what the writer considered "snowfall" to be, but technically if you simply mean snow of any amount falling on the holiday - it's eleven, dude. 

Also, this info comes with the caveat that it's before 1912. AND, as you can see in the clipping, it only covers the years since the Signal Service (weather bureau) started in 1870. So whether there were snowfalls on Christmas day since the town was incorporated back in the 1780's - who knows. My guess though? Yes, there were probably many. 

Nashville Banner clipping from December, 1912
Nashville Banner clipping from December, 1912.

For this blog post though, and to keep things as brief as this writer is able to, I'm just going to highlight only a few of those eleven occurrences when Nashville got to experience a white Christmas, plus one several years after these 1912 listings. Starting with Christmas Day in 1878...

Nashville Weather Reports Collection - December 1878

1878: Coldest Day of the Season, Temp 8º

Rewind back 144 years to a year that it got sooo cold in Nashville, ice skating on local ponds was feasible. 

Rotogravure image of ice skating and sledding in the parks
Rotogravure image from the newspapers; people ice skating and sledding in the parks.

Tracing the weather report from December, 1878 back to about the 7th of the month, it looks like the entire month of December was cold and miserable. Rain started that day that led to 1/16 inch-thick ice in the gutters. And initially, December 18th was the coldest day of the season, dropping down to 19º, but Christmas day took the cake by dropping to 8º!

"Heavy frost and ice. The ice this am is 2 inches thick. Coldest day of the season, temp 8º. Barometer fell steadily all day with W and SW winds. Clear and cold. Fair weather sunset. Verified. No aurora."

Daily American clipping from December, 1878
Low-bar set for the Christmas festivities. From the Daily American, December 26th, 1878.

1879: First Snow of the Season

Nashville Weather Reports Collection - December 1879
Weather report from Christmas, 1879.

The next year, snow happened again on Christmas! How lucky!

"The temperature fell during the night to 27 and continued to fall during the day, snow began at 9:45 a.m. and continued until 3:05 p.m. The first snow of the season. About sunset the sky became clear and the temperature fell illegible. No aurora. Fair weather sunset. Verified." 

1897: The Greatest Amount of Snowfall of 1 inch!

Nashville Weather Reports Collection - December, 1897

Fast forward a little to the time Nashville got an inch of snow on the big day!

"Sky was clear in morning with a few Ci Cu moving from SW in the southern half of the sky. Sun shone at intervals till 11 a.m. when cloudiness had increased to such an extent as to cover the whole sky with a dense A S from SW. A light snow began at 3:00 p.m. and continued till 5:15 p.m. when it turned to a light mist, continuing till 7:40 p.m. Total precipitation .14, depth of snow 1.0 inch. Snow on ground at 8 p.m. 0.5 inch. A dense fog prevailed during afternoon."

This photo is not from 1897, but one of my fave snow photos from our collections instead. 

Banner Negatives - View of train tracks after snow in January 1942
View of the railroad tracks after a snow, in January, 1942.

1962: "City Gets its Whitest Christmas"

Tennessean clipping from December 25th, 1962
Tennessean clipping from December 25th, 1962.

And lastly, fast-forwarding 65 years to the Christmas when Nashville saw 5 inches fall quickly, with a "hard-driving wind" pushing it through. Much like the storm we saw Thursday evening. 

We don't have the weather report from that year, but I do have the news clipping from the Tennessean that provides details about the storm that "prevent[ed] many working fathers from getting across car-clogged highways to their homes and families."

Tennessean  clipping from December, 1962
Tennessean clipping from December 25th, 1962.

As you can see in the clipping, this snowfall was the first to occur on Christmas day since 1935. And even that snowfall didn't appear to compare to this one, and came as a surprise as well. 

Fire Department photo - snow photos from Christmas, 1962
From the Fire Department Collection, snow photos from the Christmas day snow in 1962.

In 1935, Nashvillians awoke to about 2-3 inches on the ground. Of course, children were thrilled with this welcome surprise, playing in it all day. But another reason this snowfall was so special, despite the small amount, is because it occurred not too long after the Depression. A 1962 article from the Tennessean provided a nice recap on this aspect...

"Christmas that year was said to be the best Christmas in Nashville in five years. The Great Depression was losing its iron grip on the area and 'the return of prosperity,' The Tennessean reported, 'is reflected in increased sales." 

More Snow Images!

As a native Nashvillian, I can say that I remember maybe one white Christmas in Nashville in the last few decades. So despite the fact that this year's storm is dangerous and unfortunate for travelers, I can personally say that it provides a nice little dose of magic ;)

And now, a few more snow images in Nashville (not occurring on Christmas day).

From the Parks and Recreation Collection, riverfront park after a snow...

Parks and Rec Collection - Riverfront Park after snow

From the Hicks-Green Glass Plate Negatives Collection of Giers photography, a photo of the Cumberland river frozen over from a winter storm. 

From the Hicks-Green Glassplate Negatives Collection of Giers Photographer, the Cumberland River frozen

And finally, from 1974, the Christmas tree at the courthouse.

Happy Holidays, everyone! 

'Til next time, 


Metro Archives Collection - Photo of the courthouse Christmas tree in 1974
lucille ball


Sarah is a Program Coordinator with Metro Archives. Her interests and areas of expertise are history, reading books (of any kind), music, travel, Harry Potter, and bingeing a good comedy series. When not in Archives, she is either nose-deep in a book or planning her next trip. Learn more about the fascinating materials found at Metro Archives through their website.