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Patty Craig: A Slice of Time

During the recent cold snaps, I tried to recall what I had learned from my parents and from a college folklore course about the “little winters” of the spring. Unfortunately, I could not recall all of the names or the order of the winters. However, I found good explanations of these colder days in the following three sources.

First, Jill Szwed, LEX18, explained little winters: “Even as we go farther into spring we are not exempted from occasional cold snaps that make it feel like we’ve been blasted back to winter. All it takes is one cold front and temperatures drop from the 70s, even the 80s, to the 50s…. There are five little winter climate folklores, typically coming about every two weeks. Each “winter” recognizes the return of continental polar air masses, at varying degrees of severity, that make it feel like winter again. The different names are related to what’s in bloom” ( I found it interesting that the winters occur about every two weeks.

Second, the Half Hill Farm website (Woodbury, Tennessee) posted information about local little winters: “…They were named for the most common bloom at the time, except for ‘Britches Winter.’ That particular cold snap refers to the need to have kept your homespun linen wool long underwear (linsey-woolsey britches) handy. There is a 6th little winter I call a phantom winter that some folks call Whippoorwill Winter. I call it ‘phantom’ because it’s not usually as cold or damaging as the rest. Here are the five little winters and when they occur in Tennessee:

1.Redbud Winter: early April

2.Dogwood Winter: late April

3.Locust Winter: early May

4.Blackberry Winter: mid May

5.Britches Winter: late May (

Next year, having the names of the winters and the approximate dates of their occurrence – as well as watching for various blossoms – will help me identify these winters. Also, I had forgotten about the Whippoorwill winter, and I haven’t heard their call as much as I did growing up –hopefully that’s because of my change in location.

Third, Patience Fort, from the Magnolia Blossoms blog, explained that the little winters’ “…names have to do with whatever is happening at the time of the cold snap: redbud, dogwood, locust, blackberry, linsey woolsey britches, and whippoorwill. These little winters are most prevalent in our southern states and might have a different order or a different expected date depending on the location. Generally speaking, the first four are named according to what is blooming and tend to be in early to late April. Linsey woolsey britches winter refers to the linen and wool long underwear that could be stashed once it’s over. And whippoorwill winter occurs well into May and might bring temperatures into the forties. This is when the birds are typically out calling for a mate” ( Fort’s reminder that, based on one’s location, these winters may come in a different order or at a different time is both logical and helpful.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) says, “There is a time for everything.” I’m sure that includes the little winters. And though I’m not certain, I believe we have gone through redbud, dogwood, locust and blackberry winters, leaving only britches and whippoorwill winters this spring. But, I’ve been wrong before.


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