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Why a white Christmas is something we can normally only dream of

PUBLISHED: 19:01 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 07:57 21 December 2018

A week before Christmas in 2009, snow covered the Ipswich Waterfront and was still about on the day itself. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A week before Christmas in 2009, snow covered the Ipswich Waterfront and was still about on the day itself. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

If you're hoping for a White Christmas in East Anglia in 2018, you're almost certain to be disappointed - but you really shouldn't be surprised, according to Paul Geater.

Days before Christmas in 2010, the Cornhill in Ipswich looked like a Christmas card scene. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNDays before Christmas in 2010, the Cornhill in Ipswich looked like a Christmas card scene. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Because despite what we see in television and film dramas, white Christmases in most of England are very rare – it is generally too mild for snow at this time of year when you look at the statistics.

That’s certainly what forecasters from the Met Office are predicting this year.

In fact the last official white Christmas we had was in 1970 when a considerable amount of snow fell across the south of England on December 25. The “official” description of a white Christmas (accepted by the bookies) is that snow should fall on a certain place on the day itself.

While it might be 48 years since that happened – most people may remember the Christmases of 2009 and 2010 as “white”. Snow had fallen a few days earlier and was still on the ground.

Snow in Bury St Edmunds in the run-up to Christmas 2009. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVESnow in Bury St Edmunds in the run-up to Christmas 2009. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

But the idea of a “white Christmas” in the UK probably goes back hundreds of years to the “Little Ice Age” that gripped the world between 1600 and 1850.

During those years snow on the ground was common in England from November to March or even April every year – so it would have been normal for people to associate snow with Christmas.

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, at the end of this cold period – so it was natural for him to conjure up images of snow on the ground.

And that image has been exported, especially to the US where white Christmases in the northern states are more common than on this side of the Atlantic – that’s all linked to the effects of the Gulf Stream.

1970 was the last official White Christmas in East Anglia. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE1970 was the last official White Christmas in East Anglia. Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

But even in the US the concept isn’t universal – snow is rare in the southern states and the (almost forgotten) first verse of the best-known festive song reflects that.

When Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas in the 1930s, it started:

The sun is shining, the grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway,

A week before Christmas 2009 in Long Melford. Picture: PHIL MORLEYA week before Christmas 2009 in Long Melford. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

There’s never been such a day,

In Beverly Hills LA,

But it’s December the twenty-fourth,

And I am longing to be up North . . .

The intro had to be dropped when it was included in the film “Holiday Inn” and the song was recorded by Bing Crosby – and it has almost always been ignored since!

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