A Life in a Year – 26th December, White Christmas

Snow at Christmas is deep-seated in British culture, and most of us (except bookmakers) look forward expectantly to Christmas Day with scenes depicted on traditional Christmas cards and in works like Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, but the truth is of course that Christmas is rarely ever white any more.

The myth of snowy Christmases has its origins in the colder climate of the period 1550 to1850 when Britain was in the grip of a ‘Little Ice Age’ and therefore could be confident of snow at Christmas.  Winters were particularly persistent and severe but it is now nearly two hundred years since a frost fair was last held on a frozen River Thames in 1813.

The trouble is that for most parts of the UK, Christmas comes at the beginning of the season for snow and wintry weather is more likely early in the deepening cold of January.  White Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the change of calendar in 1752, which effectively brought Christmas day back by twelve days.

There have only been six white Christmases since I was born in 1954.  I can remember it snowing on Christmas Eve 1970 because I was walking to Midnight Mass at Hillmorton Church and according the Met Office the last white Christmas was in 2004, when snow was widespread across Northern Ireland, Scotland, parts of Wales, the Midlands, north-east and far south-west England.  I can’t remember that!

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