Appalachia Christmas Folklore

Ruling Days

Ruling days

The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English tells me this about Ruling Days:

The twelve days beginning on Christmas day, each one of which is said to govern the weather for one month of the following year. 1905 Miles Spirit of Mts 107 But he and Arth do not disagree about certain weather signs their mother had taught them when they were “shirt-tail boys,” signs about Groundhog Day, for example, and the Ruling Days, the twelve days from the twenty-fifth of December to Old Christmas, each of which rules the weather of a month of the coming year.

My Christmas day started out at a chilly 20 degrees and only warmed to the upper 30s by late afternoon. So according to the ruling days-I guess that means the month of January will be chilly too.

Every heard of Ruling Days?


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  • Reply
    Kevin Knight
    November 16, 2021 at 11:17 am

    That photo sure has me confused. Upper half has green leaves, lower half has ice and brown dead vegetation that appears extremely frozen. Maybe it was the camera. LOL

  • Reply
    October 22, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    Yes, always noted ruling days in our household; but it started with New Year’s day and the next 11. I suspect that my Pa remembered it from his early day’s and somewhere, at the orphanage or elsewhere, it got switched from the days between Christmas and Old Christmas to New Year’s.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Tamela-I think the color comes from the decaying tree the icicles are hanging from…but who knows LOL : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    December 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I have heard of forecasting by the 12 Days of Christmas and also by the first 12 days in January. I didn’t know that it was called Ruling Days. Every year, I mean to track the weather to see if it is true but I always forget!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 26, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    No I haven’t.
    Very interesting isn’t it.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I heard Mommy and Grandma speak of the Ruling Days but like the young fool I was, I didn’t pay it no mind. For close to half a century I hadn’t thought of it until I started reading your post. Thank you for awakening ancient memories!
    Tell B.Ruth that thing in the picture looks like a Sasquatch made his own catheter.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t know much about or have any
    faith in those ruling days. All I
    know is we got some wicked weather
    to go thru after Fall, till Spring.
    On the North sides of the mountains
    around here, the Frost remains till
    late evening.
    Those are some nice icycles coming
    out of that log…Ken

  • Reply
    December 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Never heard of “Ruling Days” but, at this point in my life, I’ll settle for any kind of days I can get. And as for weather, I guess we’ll probably have some.

  • Reply
    December 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    “Ruling Days” is a new one for me. I’m going to see how it works for us in Central Texas.
    What I’m curious about is the color of that longest icicle: angle of sunlight? reflection off vegetation? minerals or organic material in the log? something else?
    Happy Holidays!

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    December 26, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I had never heard the ruling days very nice article tipper, one has so much beauty around them God has made.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    December 26, 2013 at 10:15 am

    never heard of ruling days…
    and brrr its cold here also.. only 12 this morning.. just got out of the hospital yesterday… they got tired of my begging to let me loose.. lol
    dear tipper.. i hope you and yours had a wonderful christmas.. and heres to a happy and healthy new year.. thank you so so much for this wonderful blog.. its part of my family and i love you all
    sending big ladybug hugs
    lynn l

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 26, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I never heard of ruling days, but maybe I will record the weather for each of the days till Old Christmas and see how well it works.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 26, 2013 at 8:47 am

    My daddy who was a fair “weather predictor” of our upcoming weather kept a record of the “Ruling Days” of weather as it pertained to the coming months. It was interesting, as I remember, to see whether the weather proved this long-standing predictor.
    Whether this gives us clues, the method is, nonetheless, interesting.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 26, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I’ve heard of the Ruling Days but can’t say I know much about them. Sure enough, if Christmas day is January we will continue having cold weather.
    I can’t quite get a fix in my mind about how the ruling days would work since it’s usually always cold this time of year. There must be some way to grade it on a curve, so to speak. lol

  • Reply
    L. Dockery
    December 26, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Mother would draw twelve circles on a sheet of paper and write in the weather for each day. I don’t remember ever checking to see if it worked later in the year, but I’m sure she did. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Reply
    December 26, 2013 at 8:28 am

    No, I’ve never heard of ruling days, but then again, I’m still learnin’ the mountain vocabulary and traditions. It was nineteen/twenty degrees here also and moved to low thirties. The sun was shining brightly, however.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 26, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Yes, I always mean to write down what is going on, but for this week it is rainy, they a cold front.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 26, 2013 at 6:20 am

    I’m back…Wanted to say those are some wicked. wicked icicles! And why are they, that all dripping wet and freezing, was the small log laying in a Spring behind, on the bank, in rusty water, that we can’t see in the picture? Or worse, oooooooh!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 26, 2013 at 6:09 am

    Yes, I’ve heard of ruling days…
    It was mostly clear and cold in our neck of the woods yesterday. So I suppose January will be cold as well..Now if Christmas Eve could have been counted…Well, we had a spittin’ snow but didn’t stick here but on the plateau they had a good skiff.
    Why are you up so early, and myownself…I hope you don’t have to work today!…Me, I just got my hours backards and Fluffy woke me wanting a drink of water. He likes his, while watchin’ at the bathroom sink, water on, splashed a bit, stopper put down, watches to make sure the silvery thingy goes all the way tight, move the faucet back, so he can watch the water fill the sink, turn the water faucet away, put his paw in to tap the water and make sure it is cold enough and then drink!
    Is he spoiled…YES! Thank goodness this is his mornin’ drink only…the rest he will take out of the doggie’s dish or get on his own!
    Have a Happy Day after…Tipper!
    PS…We are just broken hearted…Santa couldn’t find us a “Si” (Duck Dynasty) Chia Pet…(gag gift) for us and two other family members!

  • Reply
    Gina S
    December 26, 2013 at 5:05 am

    I remember John Parris writing about ruling days. Seems to me that he got his forecast from a lady who used the first twelve days of January for her forecast, though. No matter what the new year brings us weather wise, I wish you the best of times. Thank you for daily glimpses of your life and Appalachian times.

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