May all your Christmases be white

In 2018 almost everyone in southwest and west central Minnesota wondered whether or not we’d have a white Christmas.

Early in December a white Christmas looked like a sure thing. It seemed to be “made in the shade” thanks to a 7-inch snowfall.

Then a trend toward milder weather, which was welcome for the most part, put the white Christmas potential in doubt. As the snow began to recede, I was reminded of the television Christmas special, “Frosty the Snowman,” that I remember from when I was growing up. Frosty had to evacuate to the North Pole in a refrigerated boxcar to avoid melting away.

Our snow cover hung on for Christmas Day. It wasn’t the thick, powdery snow we associate with the Christmas season, but I’m sure almost everyone agrees that basically “we’ll take it.” It provided the dual benefits of snow cover and blacktop roads for holiday travel.

The white Christmas concept has strong roots in United States cultural history. It’s almost universally associated with Bing Crosby’s mid 20th century rendition of the song “White Christmas” that begins with the words “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.”

As the song goes on to say, it’s where treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow. The singer thinks of snowy Christmas memories while writing Christmas cards.

“White Christmas” fits perfectly with the economic and social changes taking place in its time period. People no longer were likely to stay in one community all their lives. Instead they often moved to entirely different parts of the United States.

The long term pattern involved a shift from cold wintry areas of the Northeast and Midwest to warmer states such as California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Except for mountain areas in the Sierras and desert Southwest, the chances of a white Christmas were nearly non-existent.

Many people responded with their memories, with their sentiments for how a Christmas just wasn’t totally complete without any snow.

There have been some ways of compensating. A song called “Christmas Island” based on the idea of Christmas in Hawaii includes a phrase about how Santa sails in with presents in a canoe.

Even so, those who experienced white Christmases have never completely lost sight of them. It still comes across in 21st century movies and Christmas specials.

One example is the 2010 movie, “Christmas with the Kranks,” based on the fictional short novel “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham. An empty nest middle aged couple decides to skip Christmas by investing their annual Christmas budget into a Caribbean cruise.

It meant forsaking holiday traditions such as buying a Christmas tree with proceeds going to support Boy Scouts, hosting an annual Christmas Eve party, and putting a giant lighted “Frosty” on the roof to go with other identical Frosties on the roofs of neighbors.

The decision to confine their Frosty to the basement defied an expectation of the neighborhood’s self-appointed block captain, a character filled with lots of character portrayed in a way that only a performer like Dan Ackroyd could manage. Responses included a protest with the chant “Free Frostie” and a wonderfully rowdy caroling session.

Everything changed when Blair, the Kranks’ daughter, surprised her parents with an announcement that she and her boyfriend would be home for Christmas. With help from the neighborhood, the Kranks threw together a holiday worth remembering.

The snow was a basic yet very important part of it, an added source of holiday enjoyment.

It’s not unusual to use fake snow as part of the scenery at Christmas concerts and plays. Snow for Christmas isn’t likely to go out of style. Most people want their days to be merry and bright, and they hope that all their Christmases are as white as possible.

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