Snowing Is Half the Battle

living with the threat of a crusty Brown Christmas

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner

Brown Christmas. It’s the absolute worst. Sure, there are far more important things about which we can complain, or even try to fix, but no snow in late December? It just doesn’t feel right. Holiday lights look dull and grimy. Holiday music feels out of season. Insane, lawn ornament-packed yards look even more ridiculous as everything’s perched a few inches off the ground in anticipation of the snow, and beneath it’s just a sea of extension cords. Brown, lumpy turf does not a Yuletide Hootenanny make.

So what’s the Holly Jolly Forecast this year? Are we doomed to look out the window on Christmas morning, sigh, and then carry on as best we can? To be honest, I’m worried. 

If memory serves me (as it occasionally does) every single Christmas throughout my childhood was a frosty one, jingle-jam-packed with sledding trips, snowball fights, snow forts, and hour upon blissful hour spent gazing out a crystal-rimmed window as giant snowflakes fluttered down past a lone, antique street lamp while Christmas carolers crooned a lovely holiday ditty.

As I sit here, perched upon the window seat of my third story writer’s loft overlooking a stand of majestic, leafless birch trees, and as I sip peppermint tea from an antique stoneware mug and stare at the pure white page I’ve rolled into my handsome antique typewriter, I find myself wondering if the snow will come this month.

I’m not sure why, but it feels like we’re under constant threat of a snowless holiday. Where’s Old Man Winter when you need him? Sitting on a barstool somewhere boring strangers with rambling stories about “that one blizzard during Roosevelt’s third term.”

I never used to worry about this. If memory serves me (as it occasionally does) every single Christmas throughout my childhood was a frosty one, jingle-jam-packed with sledding trips, snowball fights, snow forts, and hour upon blissful hour spent gazing out a crystal-rimmed window as giant snowflakes fluttered down past a lone, antique street lamp while Christmas carolers crooned a lovely holiday ditty.

However. I may be remembering this all wrong. Perhaps my powerful brain has taken it upon itself to exclude the less classic-looking Christmases o’ yore. It may have even painted a snowy landscape across my recollections of occasional Brown Christmases. If this bizarre conspiracy theory is true, exactly how common is a snow-free holiday season?

Well, a wee bit of research on my part (yes, it happens) has uncovered an eye-opening report from the Minnesota Climatology Working Group – a joint task force comprised of smartypants scientists from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Climatology Office (DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources) which is totally a real thing, I am not even kidding about this.

A few years back, they struck out to explore the depressing phenomena of Brown Christmas, or more cheerfully, the “Historical Chances of a White Christmas.” Now, I know what you’re thinking. Can we trust Minnesota science? Yes, my friends, I’m pretty sure we can. And since Minnesota is located conveniently close to Wisconsin’s western border, we can assume the findings more or less apply to our own Chippewa Valley, give or take the rogue snowstorm.

Anyway, the report used data collected from over 110 years worth of Magical Yuletide Weather (i.e., snow depth measurements in the Twin Cities), and it tells us we have an approximately 80 percent chance of seeing snow on our lawns come Dec. 24.

So. While to some people it feels like Brown Christmases are increasingly common, that’s not quite the case. Please note that, given recent and unprecedented global climate shifts, I make no claims about the future of local snowfall. All I’m saying is that, within most of our lifetimes thus far, we’ve had a 20 percent-ish chance of a snow-less holiday. So it’s not totally uncommon.

Take that, childhood memories!

What all this means is that maybe I shouldn’t freak out so much abut the occasional Brown Christmas. And hey, could it be possible that snow is not what the holidays are all about? Perhaps. I’ve heard stories about parts of America (and even beyond) that never have snow in December. Legend has it that some people are able to celebrate Christmas in short pants or even at the beach, as horrible as it sounds. Even if this proves to be a wicked lie, my point remains. The holidays should be about family, friends, pets, and a deep, non-ironic love for all living things packed together on this tiny fragile planet hurtling through space and around the sun, over and over and over.

If there’s snow, awesome. If not, well, I guess I’ll survive.

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Volume One presents - Best Night