Changes surrounding Christmases - Keith Roulston editorial
There’s actually snow on the ground as I sit by the window typing this column, but there’s warm weather in the forecast for this week, so who knows if it will be a white Christmas or not.
Back in November, when we alternated between snow and melting, the possibility of a green Christmas seemed much more remote, yet here we are, days before the big day and we can’t be sure if we’ll have a white Christmas or not.
It didn’t used to be this way. I remember one green Christmas we had when I was young, back in the 1950s, standing out
because it was so different. In those days when presents under the Christmas tree were much fewer than today, getting a new sleigh – or even more special, a toboggan – was a huge pleasure, but part of the joy was getting together with the other neighbourhood boys to slide down the big hill on our farm north of Lucknow. That particular winter, the joy was postponed.
I haven’t counted it up, lately, but it seems green Christmases have become much more frequent in recent years as the climate has changed, driven, apparently, by the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide spewed into the air by the affluent Western nations.
Christmas is the one time snow is fashionable. Look at an old-time movie with a Christmas theme and you’ll always see snow – even if the movie was made in sunny Hollywood where they had to fake the snow. The modern media machine turns out dozens of new Christmas movies a year – many, if not most, made in Canada – but they’re usually made in summer with the addition of fake snow.
The ancient climate of Europe and Britain set the traditions of a snow-decorated Christmas. The early North American storytellers in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada continued the tradition. There have been attempts to reset the tradition in California or in southern-hemisphere Australia or New Zealand, but they just haven’t caught on.
But once you get Christmas over, or at the very latest, New Year’s Eve, the value of snow-covered scenery is forgotten. When it comes to snow, enough already! Let’s get on with the sunny spring-like weather!
This has traditionally begun a tough time for those of us in most of Canada. Christmas – even if we’d had a white one – traditionally only begins the winter season. We have months of winter ahead, even if we do manage to skip most of the snow, as climate-changed winter has often done in recent years.
It would be enough to make you laugh, if it wasn’t so serious. The winter before we moved to our Blyth-area farmhouse in 1975, had been mild, with the only real winter storm coming in April and lasting about two or three days before the snow melted again.
The rest of the late 1970s and early 1980s were a different story. I remember one winter when they built a huge V-plow at George Radford Construction in Blyth which they mounted on their biggest bulldozer and used on our road and others to push back the snowbanks that had built up.
Later, reconstruction of Hwy. 4 gave special attention to redesigning the landscaping of the roadsides so snowbanks wouldn’t build up and cause so many visibility issues. (I remember earlier delivering papers to Belgrave one night after dark and visibility being so bad I drove into a snowbank on the wrong side of the highway on my way home!)
Along the way I have bought an all-wheel-drive vehicle so that I don’t fear snow-laden roads, though I don’t face them nearly as often.
I feel sorry for snowmobile sales outlets and operators of ski resorts who can’t count on when they’ll be able to open, or for how long.
And I was reading recently about the difficulties suffered by that most Canadian of all manufacturers – maple syrup makers. I’m not sure if you heard, but spring was so fouled-up in Quebec last year that there’s a maple syrup shortage. Writing in the Globe and Mail, Christian Messier, Professor of Forestry at Université du Québec en Outaousais, says that 50 million pounds, half of Québec’s stored surplus, was released to ease the shortage. He also warns of droughts that are affecting sugar maples more than oaks or pines and beetles that are arriving from China, hitch-hiking in shipping pallets that endanger our native maples.
One of the things about Christmastime that make it so reassuring is the sense of timelessness. We’re fooling ourselves, of course. Christmas changes. Santa’s biggest parade in Canada used to be sponsored by a huge chain that no longer exists. Churches, many of them closed, used to be the centre of Christmas celebrations.
But Christmas goes on, and with it the best wishes of the season. All the best to you and yours this Christmas.