• Betty Girardeau

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

It's just a dream, of course, because the likelihood of it happening is pretty slim, although this was the view from my front window the Monday evening after Thanksgiving. Most of my Christmases growing up were white ones, and there were several of them while I lived in Virginia that were, too. But realistically the majority of the world is probably not covered in white on December 25 of any year. We can thank a host of British authors like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Sir Walter Scott and our own American author Washington Irving, who, through their writings, created our initial visions of modern Christmases, a festive season set with a snowy background. Dickens, however, probably most deserves the credit for establishing a connection between snow and Christmas. An article on the British "Country Life" website for December 2019 talks about this, saying that Dickens in writing his book "A Christmas Carol," "tapped into that almost aching sense of nostalgia for the festivities of the ‘Merrie England’ of centuries gone by. Seen through rose-tinted glasses, Christmas then was about charity and neighbourly hospitality, about warmth and benevolence lighting up a cold and punishing winter season." The article goes on to say "Where Dickens led, other authors followed. Soon, in the works of everyone from Anthony Trollope to George Eliot, Christmas Day came with a ‘crisp white frost’ or a snowfall that ‘clothed the rough turnip-field with whiteness’. Surrounded as they were by white Christmases in fact and fiction, the Victorians began to tie the bonds between snow and the festive season as tight as the strings around a Christmas parcel." For those of us who have ever had to deal with the harshness of cold and snowy winters, probably the only time we might have some nostalgia for it would be at Christmas. There is something about the thought of being tucked into our warm and cozy homes, surrounded by our loved ones, plenty of good food and merriment while the world outside is bitterly cold and snowbound that makes us feel safe and happy. As Christmas has become more commercialized, retailers and manufacturers have recognized the power of these images as marketing tools. Today for most us nothing says Christmas like the picture postcard snow scene. That is the reason, too, why "Jingle Bells" is considered a Christmas song, though the lyrics never mention that holiday at all, and why Bing Crosby's recording of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" is still the best-selling single of all time. I think though that there is something else about this snow image and Christmas that works. A world covered in newly fallen snow is beautiful and a bit magical, too. It has covered the usual dirt and ugliness and turned our surroundings into something lacy and pristine, even seemingly pure. At least for a little while, we can imagine the world as a better place, which, after all, is the real message of Christmas.

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