Holiday season wouldn't be the same without a little snow on the ground

May all your Christmases be ...

Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2002

What is it about snow and Christmas?

We all know the birth that started the whole thing took place in a desert somewhere between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, a region not particularly famous for its horse-drawn sleighs gliding merrily across fields of snow lined with towering pine trees.

Oh, I'm sure they have horses, maybe even towering trees, though most likely bedecked in palms rather than boughs ... but snow?

I don't think so.

Yet to me, and many folks I meet every year, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without snow.

Maybe my feeling stems back to early childhood on the East Side of Chicago when I learned Santa's reindeer could not fly without the white stuff.

As I reached adolescence though, I reasoned that Santa was so cool, he could make all the snow he needed in the event Mother Nature and Ol' Man Winter happened to be at odds with each other in any given year.

So it didn't matter if snow was on the ground or it was actually snowing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The jolly bearded one was coming anyway.

But somehow, a white Christmas was still better.

As I grew older, and the U.S. Army got me addicted to skiing while in the alps of Bavaria, my appreciation of the frozen water crystals teemed.

I went on to work for a ski resort in the Sierra, skiing daily for two seasons and actually taking up slalom racing ... though not well.

However, that was an appreciation of snow for sport and recreation, not for the effect it had on Christmas.

Of course, I did ski on Christmas Day a few times, and one particular year, while staying at The Lodge at Vail in Colorado, I witnessed what could only be described as giant Bing Crosby flakes falling gently outside the white-framed, small-pane windows of the inn's restaurant.

Crosby, with the words of Irving Berlin, somehow captured the magic of Christmas covered in white, with the song, "White Christmas" in the movie, "Holiday Inn."

Recorded May 29, 1942, while many Americans were away from home, fighting in World War II, the song topped popular music charts by year's end and stayed there for 11 weeks.

"White Christmas" became Bing Crosby's largest selling record and the largest selling Christmas single of all time, with 30 million copies eventually being sold.

Was it due to the simple lyrics, calling to mind images of treetops glistening or the sound of sleigh bells ringing through falling snow?

Or was it because loved ones were in far away places and the war was separating them at what is supposed to be a happy time of peace and joy?

Borrowing from the Jewish belief that one cannot truly appreciate the sweet without having first experienced the sour, perhaps it's all these things: One cannot appreciate the warmth inside during this Christian holiday without first feeling the cold of a snowy winter day, and we don't always realize how much we'll miss our loved ones until they're not there.

Or maybe it's just like I learned a half century or so ago ... snow on Christmas is magic.

Whatever the reason, I'm going to continue dreaming of and wishing for a white Christmas this week and forever, and I hope to wake up on Christmas feeling like the 77-year-old woman I spoke with a few days ago who said, "I looked out the window this morning and saw the snow and I laughed. It did my heart good."

I hope it snows a foot.

Phil Hermanek is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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