This image from the Illinois State Water Survey shows the climatological normal chances of a White Christmas, defined as 1" of snow on the ground Christmas morning. Most of central and southeast Illinois has between a 25% and 35% chance. (click image to enlarge)
A spectacular cold front passed through Illinois. Although no reliable temperature records are available, estimates from eyewitness reports indicated that temperatures fell from the 40's to zero degrees almost instantly. The water in ponds and streams was pushed into waves by 70 mph winds, then frozen in place. Small animals were frozen in their tracks. Two men near Rushville, in Schuyler County, froze to death. A man riding horseback from Chatham to Springfield started the trip in rain; by the time he arrived, his coat was frozen solid, and he was frozen onto the saddle. This was the beginning of what was referred to as the "Winter of Starving Time" in Illinois.