Snow, ice and Christmas often go hand in hand, although the reason is a bit strange. There is no snow or ice in the Christmas story told in the Bible.
However, the snow falls in Israel. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are found in a series of hills that go from north to south between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan Valley. The top of these hills is approximately 1,600 feet (500 m) high. The hills can have a very cold climate from November to April and snow can often fall. So, even if the Bible story has no snow, Jesus may have seen some snow in his life!
The reason we think about snow and ice at Christmas is probably due to the Victorians. Although Christmas was taken from the pagan winter solstice festivals in Europe, it was the Victorians who gave us our ‘traditional’ Christmas in Europe and the US. At the beginning of the Victorian era, (1837) Great Britain was in a small ice age that was from about 1550 to 1850. During this time, in London, a winter fair was often held on the frozen Thames River.
One of the main reasons why the Victorians joined Snow and Christmas was the book “A Christmas Carol”, written in 1843 by Charles Dickens.
Tells the story of an old and bad businessman named Ebenezer Scrooge who hates Christmas. During the night of Christmas Eve, three ghosts visit him, one of Christmas Past, one of Christmas Gift and one of Christmas to come. They show you how bad it really is. He realizes that making friends is more important than making money. When he wakes up on Christmas day, he is a changed man and gives a lot of money and gifts. (If you do not know the story, I recommend that you read the book or watch a movie about the story!) A very famous film was made in 1951 [4 years after Britain had some of the most intense snow of the 1900s] , but my favorite version is The Muppet Christmas Carol !!!)
When Charles Dickens was a child, Britain had heavy snowfalls around Christmas, so when he wrote “A Christmas Story,” he put a lot of snow and ice in it! He also put snow at Christmas in some of his other books as ‘The Pickwick Papers’. Charles Dickens books were very popular (and still are!) So when the Victorians read the books, they thought of snow and Christmas together!
One of the other reasons why snow and ice became popular in the Victorian era is because Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, came from Germany, where it was colder and accustomed to the large amount of snow and ice that was at Christmas. He made the popular Christmas trees in the United Kingdom, as well as many other Christmas traditions. The Christmas cards also began in the Victorian era with images of snow scenes that became very popular.
Another connection between snow and Christmas is the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”. It was recorded for the first time, in 1942, by Bing Crosby and came from a movie called ‘Holiday Inn’, set in the snowy countryside of Vermont, USA in December (there is a 75% chance of snowing on Christmas Day in Vermont). Irving Berlin wrote “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” and it only took 18 minutes to record. The original version sung by Bing Crosby has sold at least 30 million copies. The song has also been recorded by many other people and groups and has sold more than 100 million copies in individual versions (which includes all the different versions). Until 1997, the recording of ‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby was the best-selling single of all time.
Many people today are interested in seeing if they will have a ‘white Christmas’. For most people, a white Christmas means full coverage of snow on the ground where they live, with some snow falling on Christmas day.
However, the British definition, used by the United Kingdom Meteorological Office (which says whether it was a white Christmas or not!), Is that it has seen a single snowflake fall in the 24 hours of Christmas Day! This does not happen much in the United Kingdom!
Statistics show that in the UK, we receive an official white Christmas every 4 or 5 years and we have real snow at Christmas about 1 in 10 years (but often this only happens in Scotland!).
In the USA., A white Christmas can be some snow on the ground in any part of the country. That usually happens because some US states, Like Vermont, they are very cold in winter and they have a lot of snow. But some states in the south of the United States do not have any snow and in places like Australia and New Zealand, where it is your summer in December, it is very rare to have snow at Christmas unless you are in the mountains. !
The snowmen were probably first made by people to scare away the evil spirits of winter. But now they are just a good excuse to have fun in the snow! (If you know something about why snowmen were built for the first time, let me know!)
Probably the most famous snowman is ‘Frosty the Snowman’, which appears in a Christmas song of the same name. The song was written in 1950 by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. It was recorded in 1953 by the American singer Perry Como and became very popular. A film called Frosty the Snowman was made in 1969 and told the story of a magical snowman who came to life and became a girl’s best friend. Sing along with ‘Frosty the Snowman’ (in a different place).
In the United Kingdom there is a famous animated film called The Snowman (made in 1982) about a snowman that comes alive and takes a little boy to fly to see Santa Claus. We used to see him every year when he was in elementary school on the last school day before the Christmas holidays. The cartoon has a song called “We are walking in the air“. He became famous when he was released as a single in 1985 and sung by a choir called Aled Jones. Aled is now an adult and a popular radio and television presenter in the United Kingdom. (In the original animation, the song was sung by a choir called Peter Auty.)
Carving of ice and snow
There are many snow and ice carving festivals around the world. In these festivals, artists and people who like snow and ice, build large sculptures of snow and ice. Because it takes a lot of ice and snow to have a festival, they usually take place in colder countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, the northern states of the United States, Canada and some parts of Japan. Some places import snow and ice so they can have a festival!
There is a large ice-carving festival held every year in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA., Where it is very cold during the winter and a lot of snow falls and the ice freezes.
In Labrador City, Newfoundland, Canada, they have many snow and ice festivals every year! There is one at Christmas, one in February for Valentine’s Day and a winter carnival. Gary and Debbie, from Labrador City, have allowed me to use some photos of Christmas Snow sculptures.
Some records of snow and ice
The tallest snowman in the world was made in Bethel, Maine, USA. In 2008, she was a snow woman named Olympia Snowe, named after a US senator. That represents Maine. Olympia Snowe had a height of 122 feet 1 inch (37.21 m). The previous record of snowman was also for Bethel, Maine and it was Angus the snowman who was 113 feet, 7.5 inches (35.5 m) tall.
The thickest ice in the world is found in Antarctica. The thickest piece of ice that scientists have measured by using radio echo probes was 2.97 miles (4.8 km) thick!