Weather's Two Winter Seasons: Before and After Christmas

weather, winter, snow, young girl sledding down hill. perth, scotland.
weather, winter, snow, young girl sledding down hill. perth, scotland.

As a long time observer of the weather and how people react to it, I've come to the conclusion that we have two winter seasons, not one: winter before Christmas and winter after Christmas.

We don't all celebrate Christmas, of course, but we're all aware of how romanticized a White Christmas is in this country.

From Thanksgiving through Christmas Day (or perhaps New Year's Day), it's not that we tolerate snow and cold; we actually enjoy it and look forward to it.

Singers croon about a White Christmas. Movies and animated specials are filled with images of fluffy snow falling on top of villages adorned with spectacular Christmas displays. Even commercials are full of happy shoppers bopping around during snow storms, but no one even seems to be cold or have wet feet. Christmas cards all look like scenes from Normal Rockwell paintings, and we reminisce about how it used to snow more when we were younger while admitting we hope that it snows for Christmas this year.

For the remainder of the winter, which is when the majority of snow falls, I might add, we go back to our snow-hating ways. We hate the cold, and we complain of fussing with boots, hats, and scarves. We don't want to deal with travel delays associated with the weather, and, in fact, we often plan a cruise to the Caribbean or a week in Cancun. We hope for an early end to winter, and complain if the flakes continue to fall in March or April.

I've written about our tendency to want to split winter into two seasons before, as well as whether Charles Dickens is responsible for our obsession with the idea of a White Christmas.

Finally, here are some images that show the snow on the ground for the past three Christmas days (images courtesy of the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center). As you can see, snow was fairly scarce last year, but it widespread the previous two years, especially 2009.

Christmas snow cover on Christmas 2011

Christmas snow cover on Christmas 2010

Christmas snow cover on Christmas 2009