Sunday, December 15, 2013

"How in the Dickens did Charles save Christmas?"

A Currier & Ives Classic:"Winter Homestead 

With a blanket of white (or ice) across many states following the latest winter storm, we'd like to take some time out to share our seasonal favorite tale of the connections between snow and the winter holidays. So grab the Peppermint Spice coffee creamer, relax in a warm corner, and enjoy this special story about the history of the "White Christmas." 

Even if you are in a southern clime, under decorated palm trees deep in the heart of Texas, or are facing long cold nights or have festively-lit reindeer in the Mid-Atlantic, we hope the light that comes from this season, and this story, will help lift your spirits. 


Mount Lebanon
The historical and religious reasons for marking December 25 as Christ's birth, was preceded by an influence of climate and geography. Even though some historians note that Jesus may have been born in November or March, and not December, it is likely that snow was present for the first Christmas.   "Lebanon" , which is the nearest mountain range to Bethlehemin the original Hebrew is associated with "white." At the time, the Lebanon range was generally snow-covered year round.  

4TH CENTURY ORIGINS. Christmas was not recognized as a formal religious holiday until the 4th century. The Catholic Church reorganized late December holidays, and imported traditions from the pagan "Feast of Saturnalia" which occurred on the 25th. It is believed this compromise is the origin of present day food-related revelry during our winter holidays.  

ILLEGAL CHRISTMAS? A thousand years later, Puritan settlers in the New World viewed December 25 with scorn. Records from the late 1600's show that celebrating Christmas was actually illegal in Boston, due to ancient Christmas festivals having less-than-reputable (i.e. pagan) reputation. The writings of one man in the 1800's helped change that.


A "Frost Fair" on the River  Thames in London, 1683.
In the gritty streets of London in 1843, the date was not marked with evergreen wreaths and merriment for all. However, there was snow. A three-hundred year period from the 16th to 19th centuries was later known as  "Little Ice Age" due to reduced solar output. 

The height this chill, from 1645 to 1710, is now known by climatologists as the Maunder MinimumOver 26 winters, the River Thames in London froze so thick that grand  "Frost Fairs" were held on the ice! This excellent report by AccuWeather's Jesse Ferrell details many of the climate connections to our visions of White Christmases, due in part to the wide ranging impact of the Little Ice Age. 

A CHILDHOOD INFLUENCED BY CLIMATE. During Charles' early childhood in the 1810's, his Father invested considerable time into a grand celebration of Christmas. It was a major family effort, with pig, goose and capon, the best there could be; with mince pie and plum porridge, good ale and strong beer. Topping it off, courtesy of the Little Ice Age, snow was observed six years in a row in London, right on Christmas Day!  Years later, as an author, with firmly ingrained memories of all this, Charles traversed the streets of London up to 20 miles a day...taking notes for his novel, A Christmas Carol. 

In 2006, this present-day librarian-blogger  summed up how the time-honored characters of Mr. Dickens, enshrined in a red- and gold-bound book, may have "saved" Christmas. What started as an effort by Dickens to restart his literary career, cemented a holiday-themed revolution which influenced our present day visions of cinnamon sticks and sleigh rides down snow-glistened streets. 

Charles may have been the original "Powderhound," for the story refers to frequent winter weather clogging the streets of London, a climate truth in the height of the Little Ice Age. Now that era lives on in our wrapping paper, Currier & Ives engravings and in the music that enriches our lives for just a few short weeks.  

As we celebrate one of the most significant events in history, the recognition of December 25 being Christ's birth, we know people of many creeds and colors have shared the child-like thrill when for the first time, "it's snowing!" 

We hope that someday, wherever you are, you'll be able to enjoy White in the winter night, courtesy of Mr. Dickens, a little red book, and a little help from the climate records! 

Our warm holiday wishes to you and your family, 
from all of us at Foot's Forecast. 


ravensbbr said...

Little hit being called for the Highlands this Monday/Tuesday, looks real shortwave, nothing to get excited about (I think)

Mike Cheuvront said...

Hi ratio could surprise. It wants to snow

ravensbbr said...

You could be right, Mike. Flurries this morning up here.

Mike Cheuvront said...

Ugh! Warm air coming. Definitely not a fan. Why can't it ever just stay winter. Even though its not even here yet :-):-)

Jeremy S. said...

Well...the good news is that the temps should go crashing down soon after the warm air arrives.

Andy, Southern York County Pa said...

I will take another 2-4 inches. I think York County is going to turn into a glacier! If we get 4 inches from this that will be 20 inches in the last 9 days. 7 on 12/8, 5.9 on 12/10, 1/4 inch in 12/12, 3.5 inches on 12/14.

Clippers can surprise. I think there could be slick roads around Baltimore.

BioPat said...

The contrast in temperatures from the weekend to Monday/Tuesday will be significant. I keep hearing the term "crashing temperatures" blasting out the warm air. In spite of this bit of warming the ground is now cold enough that if we do get any snow with those colder temps it will create slick roads and may even leave us with enough snow for a white Christmas. Guess we'll have to watch and wait.

NeedaSnowday said...

Balmy today... Gonna be downright warm on Sunday!!

ravensbbr said...

Game day, Need, hope the heat wave will mess with the Patsies and Princess Brady's head.

Watch us get yet ANOTHER thunderstorm delay... ;-P

NeedaSnowday said...

Nooooo.. we are 0-2 in delayed games!

Santa visited out neighborhood on an antique fire truck today. Taking pictures with kids in tee shirts and shorts... First day of winter.....??

NeedaSnowday said...


ravensbbr said...

Merry Christmas to all of the Foot Clan from up here in the Northern Highlands!

Tina said...

Ditto Ravensbbr... visiting my sister's family in Eldersburg and this afternoon's snow squalls were a SERIOUSLY cheap thrill! Looking for a real pay day! Stay safe and warm!

Andy, Southern York County Pa said...

Merry Christmas. Waking up to an inch and a half of unpredicted fresh snow with another 1-2 inches on the way. I think we are in a weather pattern that will surprise more than usual. Hope everyone had a merry and restful Christmas, I think there will be plenty storms to track so get your rest now, as this season WILL be better than the last two.

NeedaSnowday said...

Snow falling right now looks like Christmas card! How exciting!. Andy saw all your pictures posted on Mid Atlantic weather forum...very cool!

ravensbbr said...

Good hunting out in the snow this morning, lots of fun.

Back out tomorrow, nice cold stretch of days coming up, should be good!