A ‘white Christmas’ is all well and good if you live in Canada or the Alps, but as a child growing up in the south of England, the idea led to nothing but disappointment.
As far as I can remember, I’ve only had one Christmas that actually involved real snow. Instead, year after year I was left to experience the letdown of a rainy Christmas day, or the cruel realisation that I’d once again been conned by the fake snow being pumped out from a hairdressers on the high street while out shopping for presents.
So when I experienced the irrational wave of anger that accompanied hearing Bing Crosby’s White Christmas for the first time this year, it got me thinking – how many of us have been raised with the promise of a Christmas filled with snowball fights and sledging, only to be met with puddles and, at best, a bit of sleet?
Well, I’ve done my research, and I’m here to tell you that White Christmas is a lie.
It’s a little known fact, but meteorologists actually have a definition for what counts as a white christmas. In the United States, it’s any snowfall over 1cm on December 24-25, while in Canada, the bar is set slightly higher at 2cm.
For the majority of people on this planet, it’s extremely unlikely that it will snow on Christmas Day. In fact, of the more than 7.9 billion people that live on Earth, 46% live in a place where it’s never snowed, full stop, let alone on Christmas Day. According to The Weather Channel, of the world’s 20 largest cities, only three have anything more than a ‘fair chance’ of snowfall on Christmas.
Now, look, obviously I’m not expecting it to snow in the outback, but even in places where you might reasonably expect to be able to enjoy a white Christmas, the truth is more often than not a let down.
As The Weather Channel points out, the idea of a white Christmas was popularised by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, leading to associations of snow-covered London streets. Yet, in England, over the past 53 years, while temperatures routinely fall below freezing, there have only been four Christmases where the majority of the country saw snow on December 25.
In the United States, meanwhile, only 11 states have areas with a more than 50% probability of snowfall on Christmas day, according to data collected by the National Climatic Data Center. Those states account for just 17% of the total US population, meaning more than four-out-of-five Americans won’t see snow on Christmas.
To make matters worse, thanks to the impact of climate change, even places that could once be relied upon to provide ideal sledging conditions on Christmas day are seeing fewer whiteouts on the big day. In Calgary, Canada, for example, the probability of snow on Christmas has fallen from around 75% in 1964, to less than 50% today.
Countries in Europe are seeing a similar trend. In Germany, white Christmases could be expected every three-to-four years in the 1970s, but nowadays come around only every seven to eight. Meanwhile, according to Austrian climatologist Alexander Orlik, outside of the country’s alpine mountains, ‘the chances of a white Christmas have been halved.’
The evidence is overwhelming; for most of us, the only snow we’re likely to see on Christmas is on our televisions, and for those lucky people who did grow up with pre-turkey snowball fights, those days seem to be growing increasingly numbered.
I’m not advocating that we all spend our Christmas holidays in Siberia, but surely this collective lie we tell ourselves each year in December has gone too far.
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The Weather Channel