This post is by Nancy Jardine.
There are many differing attitudes to the approach of Christmas.
Some love the end of November, after which their excitement continues to the 25th and 31st December. In the US, it might initially be looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday, or in Scotland, for people like me, it might be anticipating St. Andrew’s Day the 31st November. On the other hand, many dread the whole season if they are alone, or if some family circumstances mean the situation isn’t as happy as it could be.
Living in north-east Scotland, in the northern hemisphere at a latitude of 57.2, roughly comparable to Sitka on the Juneau peninsula of Alaska, I sometimes have mixed feelings about what November into December will bring. Deep snow falling prior to the 25th December brings with it an incredible sense of awe and excitement, especially if it happens to fall on Christmas Eve. The bright light factor as it falls is energising after what has often been very short grey days and long dark nights. The settled brilliance of deep crisp snow is cheering, the powdery newness a marshmallow joy to behold on the landscape. If it occurs a day or two before the 25th, there are the grumbles about the inconvenience to transport, work and all that entails, but so long as it isn’t too hampering the exhilaration pervades.
Often, though, at the end of December it’s very frosty nights and low freezing haar (low cloud thick enough to be dense fog) in the early dawns but, during my lifetime, there have also been times of weird unseasonable weather like I’m currently experiencing. A run of December days this 2015, when the daytime temperature averages have been 12 Deg Centigrade (53 Deg F), isn’t conducive to making it seem like the Christmas season. We’ve had double rainbows as seen over my ancient greenhouse attached to the stable block, after which the skies cleared to leave a very pleasant blue afternoon where I played with my grandchildren in the garden for more than an hour in something like 14 Degrees C.
“Sleigh Bells Ring…are you listening?” belting out from the speakers in the supermarket doesn’t appear logical when all I’m wearing is a cardigan over a T-shirt. During summer days when the temperature is only 12 Deg C? Yes, that would be normal—but in December?
Topsy-turvy is what our weather is currently like though I’m glad to say that I’ve recently read an article which corroborates that I’m not quite into senility, yet, and my memory isn’t too unreliable. Back in the early 1960s, Scotland did have a particular pre-Christmas season that was also incredibly mild…and this was well before Climate change was even invented!
I believe the year was 1961. I got a pair of roller skates as a Christmas gift from Santa and I clearly remember being outside in the sunshine wearing only a cardigan as I learned how to use my fancy new skates which had a ‘brake stopper’ attached to the front, my previous ones having been hand-me-downs from my older sister which had NO brake stopper and very worn back plates. (read ‘Sore Bottoms-Are-US when using those skates as a novice!)
The image here is more like my sister’s skates. Mine had bright red plastic heel guards, moulded plastic toe caps and plastic wheels and toe-stop. My new ones were very fancy, very up-to-date and no doubt Woolworths best but they didn’t glide nearly as well as the older kind.
Pleasant weather aside, what I also remember about that particular Christmas was waking up early- though not before 7 a.m. since I was a sleepyhead. I was nine going on ten, and though the myth of Santa had been on shaky ground for some years, I still awoke with a tremendous excitement and eagerness to explore my ‘Christmas stocking’.
I don’t know exactly why this was tradition where I grew up in Glasgow, but we didn’t tend to have a stocking attacked to the mantle piece of the chimney. When Santa visited me in Glasgow, he left me a pillowcase filled with goodies which sat at the end of my bed.
I delved into the pillowcase and was over the moon to find a whole bunch of books, some of them really fat with loads of reading in them. I probably had breakfast and lunch but don’t remember that as I avidly scanned my beloved books and ‘Christmas Annuals’ of the comic books I used to get every week during the year. A few of those below are my original Enid Blyton books. It was well into the afternoon before I was persuaded to don my new skates and go outside…in my new cardigan, skirt, and ankle socks since it was sunny and lovely and warm. (We’ll leave out the underwear descriptions; save to say I always got new stuff at Christmas and Easter)
My street was filled with boys and girls playing outside with their new gifts. There were few cars parked along our street back then so traffic wasn’t an issue and kids were whizzing up and down the slight incline on their brand new bikes. Little girls were wheeling their doll prams (strollers) up and down the pavements (sidewalk). Other kids were playing with balls and hula hoops (very topical that year). Some, like me who were wearing new skates, were shakily grabbing onto the garden fences making our way uphill as that was safer than going down the way, not trusting those brake stoppers quite yet!
Well. That fun, for me, only lasted a tiny short time because darkness fell rapidly. My long reading spell had eaten well into the daylight leaving me only a tiny amount outside in the fresh air. Though it was just past the winter solstice on that 25th December day, and the days were actually lengthening, it didn’t quite seem that way because the sun certainly didn’t ‘stand still’. I could have done with a little bit more sunlight…but the good thing was that I still had lots of books to read.
As I publish this post on the 19th December, the astronomical phenomenon of the solstice (the day of the sun standing still) is almost here – the moment the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun as the Earth continues on its orbit. (Northern hemisphere) Traditionally, the winter solstice falls on December 21, but this year it actually happens on the 22nd December.
I remember very few other ‘warmish’ Christmas days like that one. As we draw so close to Christmas Day of 2015, and the weather in my part of the globe is incredibly mild on the 19th December, I’m wondering just what the 25th will be like.
Aye! The days will soon be fair drawin’ oot!
But what’s Christmas weather looking like for you? Whatever it is, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas from a rainy and dreich, but warmish, Scotland.
Nancy Jardine writes:
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