Since moving away from New England, I’ve had a rough relationship with what Florentines call “winter” and lately Florence has just been a bunch of cloudy days with way too much wetness. The Christmas lights are beautiful and the tree looks perfect, but I’ll always wish there was one more thing to top it all off: snow, or at least ice – I’d even go for a frost. Make it cold enough for me to at least appreciate gloves.
I grew up falling asleep to snowplows outside my window and afternoons building snow forts or sledding until it was time to tumble into the house and strip off the snowsuits. If you were lucky, hot chocolate was waiting on the table. I grew up in a world where it can actually snow when you walk out of Midnight Mass and where even a perfect dusting makes the Christmas lights that much more magical – nevermind just a walk through the neighborhood. Just the other day we started watching Christmas movies (much to Rami’s dismay – though he’s being an incredible sport and even made eggnog the other night. Husband points) and A Christmas Carol usually is involved in that list – either in Muppet form or another.
Lately, it has been bothering me how many decorations and movies and ice and snow things that I see around Florence are something that Giulio won’t see outside his window – kids here in Florence can’t visualize Santa gliding onto their snowy roof in a sleigh (as it properly should) – and how would that work otherwise because landing on terracotta probably isn’t lovely for reindeer hooves?
So my big question was, why does a large population of the world celebrate Christmas with snowy things, even when the climate doesn’t match, and sometimes these poor kiddos don’t even know what snow IS.
Blame Charles Dickens.
In my not-so-thorough research (I would love to do more, just don’t have the time), A Christmas Carol has been said to have been a key to the revival of celebrating Christmas in the Victorian Era, and Charles was writing this book while purposefully looking back on to the “good” Christmases he had when he was a kid. Interestingly, the weather patterns in England at the time were going a bit crazy and a mini ice age was actually happening – spurring the famous parties on the frozen Thames and apparently a Christmas season to remember.
Here’ the thing: after this mini cold stretch, London got warmer, and the snow wasn’t much of a Christmas norm anymore. To make matters worse, if you really go into the details of the weather reports, it seems that the writer just wanted to make that spirit of Christmas shine just a bit brighter – and what better to do it with than a frosty snowfall? A Christmas Carol and the sentiments of the winter white scenes outside were apparently too pretty to pass up – even if it wasn’t a representation to what was outside everyone’s windows. The fact that six of Dickens’s first nine Christmases were white may have been a fluke, but his Christmas cheer kept on going and continued to pop up in New England in the newer Christmas songs that followed.
Dickens and I shared a childhood full of snow and ice, and I guess it shows that the snow really is magical, it can change an entire scene, a day, emotions. Charles and his dreams of a White Christmas only helped emphasize my seemingly snowglobe-perfect winter wonderland up in New England, but I still was lacking a few of those typical traditions that just didn’t carry across the oceans – like eating chestnuts roasted on an open fire, and walking through the city on a Christmas morning while everyone shouts their wishes to each other, and the lights and store windows are dazzling artwork more than marketing campaigns, and, like our lunch spot today, Christmas markets to turn the city just a bit cozier even if the weather won’t cooperate – if it ever even really did. Tonight, I think we’re watching the Muppets – and maybe I’ll do a snow dance just in case.