If you’re a boomer dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones you used to know, then you are not alone. As the song illustrates, a white Christmas is defined as a measurable amount of snow on the ground for the holiday … and therein lies the connection to: like we used to know. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the areas of the country most likely to get December snowfalls has been changing for at least 30 years now. There are variations from state to state, of course — nature doesn’t like to work in straight lines — but as a general rule, the snow demarcation markers have been trending northward. Consequently, areas that may have seen white Christmases in our boomer years are now left with snowless holidays four and five decades later.
Mister Boomer can attest to this by personal observation. In the region where he spent his boomer years of the 1950s and ’60s, every Christmas was a white Christmas. Snow generally started falling the first week of December and additional snow fell every week until Christmas. That guaranteed several inches of snow on the ground for the holiday, but it often snowed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as well. For that reason, Mister B’s local weather men often referred to “white Christmas” as actually receiving snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This further defined the term to include fresh snow for maximum glistening.
To young boomers, a white Christmas went hand in hand with a series of snow-related Christmas gifts. After all, boomer kids would spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s more outdoors than indoors. Mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, long johns, boots, sleds, saucers, ice skates, hockey sticks and the perennial Christmas gift of socks, spanned the gift-receivable range from very welcome to sighs and groans. In the end, the double pair of gloves protected our hands from frostbite as the top pair was wet before the first snowball fight was over. Tree tops may have glistened, but a chill wind required layers of clothing, starting with long johns. All the better to make snow angels without feeling the frost. With hats firmly in place, scarves were wrapped around our faces in what, in retrospect, looks eerily similar to sporting this year’s obligatory face mask. All the better to ward off the snow and ice crystals tossed up from our sled runners. To young boomers, a white Christmas was winter fun.
Another aspect of a white Christmas that Mister Boomer really enjoyed was how fresh snow on rooftops and shrubbery softened the brightness of Christmas lights. Large, teardrop light bulbs would glow beneath a thin veil of freshly fallen snow, reflecting outward in a beautiful diffusion of color. While there was (and is) a case to be made for the garish brightness of the holiday, there was something immensely peaceful about a snowy night that muffled the jazz horn that house decorations played.
As for Mister B, the crossover from boomer years to adulthood meant more shoveling, and winter driving. White Christmases weren’t as welcome. As the 1970s wore on, his region experienced an occasional snowless holiday. Into the 1980s, there were more snowless Christmases than white ones.
How about you, boomers? Are you dreaming of a white Christmas this year, or will you have your fill of snow before the New Year is here?