Dear reader, you are being seriously misled and I feel I must tell you. There is a lie perpetuated every year. It is always repeated about this time of year in the U.K. What is this gross travesty? Simply that we are told in many T.V. programmes, on thousands of Christmas cards and in most advertisements that it SNOWS at Christmas.
I will grant that Christmas is in the midwinter and there is a chance of snow but we are led to believe that there are at least a few inches of snow everywhere. I regret this is not so. Today, for instance, I sit typing in my T-shirt and with the windows open…and I’m still hot. I know that snow happens at Christmas time in those places where you would expect it, particularly nearer the Arctic circle. In the U.K. this means The northern end, particularly Scotland and occasionally some of the more northerly areas of England. I can personally vouch for the fact that here in the southerly end of England, Snow is as rare as hens teeth. It rarely gets to minus temperatures for more than a month or so around January/February.
Now I don’t want to get into climate change but the seasons seem to be shifting. Most Christmas days are as likely to be sunny and relatively warm or dull and grey as covered in snow. So how did snow get linked irrevocably to Christmas? If you buy into the religious meaning, snow, as far as I know, is never mentioned in the bible but I understand Bethlehem can get a bit nippy at times and snow is not unheard of in Israel generally. Nevertheless I repeat, one does not associate the story of Jesus with cold and snow. Just the opposite in fact.
Well I can answer, at least here in the U.K. I will amend this last statement, I can give you the most popular theory. Christmas was celebrated in England in medieval times with food, drink and many jolly japes. the Fun lasted, if you could afford it, for a full 12 days. I would imagine the poor could barely afford a single day but I may post more later on this subject. However there is little doubt that it was extremely cold in December, the U.K. being in the grip of a mini Ice age lasting from the 1600’s to the late 1800’s. There was almost certainly a lot of snow about in December and in London the Thames froze regularly leading to frost fairs on the ice.
Now in the 1600’s we had ourselves a little Civil war and the King was beheaded. The Puritans, and more particularly Oliver Cromwell ruled. You should be aware that Cromwell was a pivotal figure in English history but he was, along with most Puritans, a miserable old git and did not like people to have fun, it being sinful. Among other things he and the Puritans did to stop people enjoying themselves was to effectively ban Christmas. It failed to completely eradicate the Holiday but even after the restoration in 1660, and the subsequent restoration of the Christmas holiday, it never gained it’s former popularity. The ban had led to clandestine Christmas services and the braver souls celebrated the day as a secular holiday but the major celebrations (The 12 days of Christmas!) were gone. It was at best a fairly low key affair.
Now we move on a couple of hundred years or so and to the real restoration of Christmas. Queen Victoria and Albert, her consort, had ties with Germany and imported the Teutonic ideas of the Christmas tree, cards and gifts. The holiday was really only celebrated on the 25th and 26th of December but there were throwbacks to the 12 day celebrations. However it gave us many modern elements of the Christmas season. So Christmas was back.
The most famous writer in Victorian England was Charles Dickens and he wrote several Christmas books but his most famous must be ‘A Christmas Carol’ which emphasized the need for charitable giving to the poor and the idea that the normal squabbles and fights in life were temporarily put aside. It tells of the reclamation of an old miser by the three spirits of Christmas past, present, and future. More importantly it gave us a snapshot of Victorian Christmas celebrations, including the prevailing weather in December.
The idea of fog, frost, ice and snow comes from the fact that the Victorian era was still in the midst of this mini Ice age and the Thames still froze. Outside the capital and in the country, snow would still have been common in late December and so it inevitably became associated with the Holiday.
So the Victorian Christmas ideal became the norm and no doubt was spread throughout the empire and into many other English speaking nations. The snow was as much a part of it as Christmas trees so it became part of the package no matter where you were.
Now, of course, we are no longer in an Ice age and the snow that was so common is rare in this part of the world, but we are nothing if not traditionalist. So we perpetuate the lie that it always snows at Christmas.