Old Man Winter

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Caricature of Old Man Winter

Old Man Winter is a personification of winter.[1][2] The name is a colloquialism for the winter season derived from ancient Greek mythology and Old World pagan beliefs evolving into modern characters in both literature and popular culture.[3] He is usually depicted as an old man, most commonly blowing winter over the landscape with his breath, or simply freezing the landscape with his very presence.

"His breath roared out from his lips, Stopping all streams at their source. The feet of Old Man Winter walked upon the earth, freezing all the grass."

— Nancy Wood[4]


Humans have associated the winter season with deities since the ancient Greek god of winter Boreas, the Norse god of winter Ullr and continuing on in other cultures including Celtic mythology with the goddess Cailleach and goddess Beira.[3] Over time, the old gods of winter changed to new humanizations of the seasons, including Old Man Winter.[3] However, some cultures had a character clearly named "Old Man Winter", where the name was not a shorthand for some other god or spirit. Among the Potawatomi people of the Western Great Lakes region, there exists a myth about Old Man Winter, called Pondese in their language.[5] Old Man Winter was a character in Iroquois legends. [6]

Popular culture[edit]

There are countless references to this personification of winter throughout literature, music, games, cultural events and even in advertising.


  • Nancy Wood, an American author and poet, included a poem titled "Old Man Winter" in her 1974 collection of poetry and prose called Many Winters[4]
  • Mabel Powers, an American author, suffragist and feminist, known for collecting and disseminating Native American folklore, included a story titled "How Old Man Winter Was Driven Back" in an anthology of Iroquois stories.[6]
  • J. Walter Brain, a Thoreau supplicant[clarification needed], penned a poem entitled "Old Man Winter".[7]


  • American Airlines used Old Man Winter in a 1941 ad campaign, touting "Old Man Winter... We like his snow to play in, but it's not all fun... travel above those dark, low-hanging clouds..."[8]
  • The Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company used Old Man Winter in a World War 2 era ad campaign promoting their new storm windows. The campaign was launched in conjunction with the US Government in an effort to keep domestic fuel consumption low and conserve it for the war effort. "Keep Old Man Winter Out... Keep Warm With Storm Windows!" the ads read.[9]

Sports & games[edit]

  • The Old Man Winter Bike Rally and Run is held in February every year in Lyons, Colorado.[10]
  • A thoroughbred race horse, born in 2017 and owned by James S. Acquilano, was named Old Man Winter.[11]


  • There is a two part choral octavo called Old Man Winter, written by Lois Brownsey and Marti Lunn Lantz.[12]

Food & drink[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ Farlex Dictionary
  3. ^ a b c AccuWeather: Winter tales and myths: Where did Old Man Winter, Jack Frost come from?
  4. ^ a b Wood, Nancy (1974). Many Winters: Prose and Poetry of the Pueblos. New York, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 0385308655.
  5. ^ Neely, Justin; Velie, Alan R. (2018). "Pondese: Old Man Winter and Why We Have Spring Today". In Palmer, Gus (ed.). When Dream Bear Sings: Native Literatures of the Southern Plains. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 51–54. ISBN 978-0803284005.
  6. ^ a b Powers, Mabel (1917). Stories the Iroquois Tell Their Children. New York, NY: American Book Company.
  7. ^ Brain, J. Walter (2015). "The Poet at Walden II". The Concord Saunterer. 23: 135–146. JSTOR 44484707. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  8. ^ Dorne, Albert (1941). "Old Man Winter". Modern Graphic History Library, Washington University in St. Louis.
  9. ^ "Keep "Old Man Winter" Out". North Carolina Digital Collections. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  10. ^ "Old Man Winter Bike Rally & Run". Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  11. ^ "Horse Profile for Old Man Winter". Equibase. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  12. ^ "Old Man Winter" (PDF). Mireau Music. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  13. ^ "Old Man Winter Porter". Ribstone Creek Brewery. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Old Man Winter Ale". Southern Tier Brewing Company. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  15. ^ "Old Man Winter Old Ale". Cape Cod Beer. Retrieved 11 April 2022.