Christmas Day evokes thoughts of snowfall, sledding and outdoor fun for many residents in Illinois, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate when it comes to ensuring a “White Christmas.”
In fact, the city of Chicago goes without snow more often than it receives it on Christmas Day, with the last measurable snowfall on the holiday coming back in 2017.
So just how often does it snow? What are the warmest and coldest high temperatures recorded on Christmas in Chicago? How often do we actually get “White Christmases”?
For those answers and more, read on.
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Warmest Christmas on Record:
The Christmas of 1982 was a rare event in a lot of ways for the city of Chicago. Not only did the city receive nearly half-an-inch of rain on that day, but it also marked the warmest recorded high temperature the city has seen on the holiday, with the mercury reaching 64 degrees.
According to NWS records, that is the only time the city has hit a high temperature in the 60s on Christmas, with the second-warmest recorded holiday coming in 2019, when the high was 57 degrees.
Coldest Christmas on Record:
What goes up must inevitably come down, and that apparently is the case with high temperatures on Christmas Day, as just one year later the city recorded its coldest-ever high temperature for the holiday.
On that frigid winter day in 1983, the high temperature at O’Hare was negative-5 degrees, the only time that the Christmas Day high has been below-zero since record keeping began in the 19th century.
The year 1985 came close, with a high temperature of 2 degrees, and there have only been a handful of other instances in which the high was in the single-digits for Christmas.
In case you’re curious, the coldest temperature recorded on Christmas Day in Chicago also came in 1983, with a low of negative-17 degrees. Hopefully Santa Claus bundled up for that journey through the Midwest.
More information on high and low temperatures on Christmas, residents can consult the NWS Christmas Data page.
How Often Does it Snow on Christmas:
Now we’re getting to the interesting stuff. Snow on Christmas isn’t an exceptionally rare or common occurrence in Chicago, with the National Weather Service reporting measurable snowfall (defined as 0.1 inches or more) 39% of the time since record-keeping began.
The last time we received measurable snow in Chicago on Christmas came in 2017, when 0.1 inches of snow fell at O’Hare.
Snowiest Christmas on Record:
Significant snowfalls on Christmas Day have been a bit more rare, with the last snowfall of more than one inch occurring in 2013. In 2002, the city saw two inches of snow fall, the most it had seen in a single Christmas since 1965.
For the snowfall record, one would have to go all the way back to 1950, when Chicago received 5.1 inches of snow on the holiday.
For a ranking of the snowiest and wettest Christmases on record, residents can consult the "Chicago Christmas" page.
The Last White Christmas in Chicago:
In the eyes of the National Weather Service, a “White Christmas” is defined as a holiday where there is at least one inch of snow on the ground by the end of the day.
The last time the city hit that milestone was in 2017, when NWS recorded two inches of snow cover on the ground at O’Hare.
More information on conditions for each Christmas Day since 1950 can be found here on the NOAA Online Weather portal.
Rainiest Christmas on Record:
Naturally, it’s always possible to get rain on Christmas, and way back in 1950 the city saw its rainiest holiday ever recorded, with half-an-inch of rain falling on the big day.
That record equaled one set back in 1909, according to National Weather Service archives.
What Does This Year Hold?
According to current forecast models, the city of Chicago isn't likely to see a measureable snowfall on Christmas Day, extending a streak that has been ongoing since March 15, 2021.
It is possible that the city will see rain in the morning hours, with a forecasted high temperature of 47 degrees.
That would mark a high 15 degrees above normal, and would finish just outside of the top-10 warmest Christmas Day readings recorded in the city.