The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it’s December the twenty-fourth
And I am longing to be up North. . .
So opens that perennial Christmas classic “White Christmas”, written by Irving Berlin in 1942 and popularized by Bing Crosby in a film called Holiday Inn; years later, the song was revived in a film called White Christmas, in which it was performed as a memorable duet by Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.
For what it’s worth, though, white Christmases aren’t exactly the norm, even, apparently, “up North”. According to Peter Haining, the renowned British paranormal researcher and author, we owe dreams of a white Christmas to none other than our old friend Charles Dickens and his “Ghost of an Idea” A Christmas Carol, that imaginative tale of a miser’s reclamation in a snowy, foggy Victorian London.
In his preface to The Complete Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens (1982), Haining comments: . . .according to Professor Hubert Lamb of the climactic research unit at East Anglia University, snowy Christmases are actually very infrequent. . .Professor Lamb found the explanation for the belief during research into past weather records, which showed that for the first eight years of Dickens’s life there was a white Christmas every year with either snow or white hoarfrost (page 9).
It so happens that Dickens, born in 1812, came along at the tag end of the most recent period some call a Little Ice Age, a period of centuries during which weather patterns mimicked the great freezes that, in past ages, lasted for millenia. The last such began circa the year 1400. It was particularly severe in the late sixteenth century, when, it’s recorded, England’s Queen Elizabeth I took daily walks, during several memorable winters, on a River Thames frozen nearly rock solid.
Another geological phenomenon was also in effect in Dickens’s early years; in 1815, a gigantic volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies spread so much dust and ash in the atmosphere that much of the Northern Hemisphere experienced massive crop failures and unusual winter conditions (with much of New England and Canada in particular reporting snow as late as June in the following year) that 1816 is still remembered as “the year without a summer”.
Even so, Haining’s Professor Lamb points out that Christmas weather tends more toward sunny days breaking up more severe weather patterns, not the romantic snowy ones best observed from indoors, by a roaring fire, with hot chocolate and cookies and a good book and. . .
Ahem. Pardon me. I come from an area where white Christmases are rare–our more recent, in 2010, came forty-two years after its predecessor–
but I’ll dream of one nonetheless.
Specially when my man Hampson sings about one. 😉