The history of a white Christmas in the United Kingdom

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17th Dec 2021 Life

The history of a white Christmas in the United Kingdom

“I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know, where the tree tops glisten, and children listen, to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”

American songwriter Irving Berlin’s iconic lyrics kept the cash rolling in long after Bing Crosby sang ‘White Christmas’ in the 1942 film Holiday Inn.

The sentiment expressed in that song still rings true today, with millions of people across the world always eager to see snowfall at Christmas.

However, as highlighted by research from Betway Insider, some regions are much luckier than others when it comes to enjoying a white Christmas.

For example, Moscow has nine snowy Christmases in the last 12 years, putting the Russian capital ahead of Nur-Sultan and Tallinn (Estonia) in the capital city festive snow stakes.

By contrast, London has not had a single white Christmas during the same timeframe, leaving snow lovers in the English capital extremely frustrated.

For most parts of the UK, Christmas is only the beginning of the period when snow is likely to fall from the sky.

According to the Met Office, snow or sleet falls an average 3.9 days in December, compared to 5.3 days in January, 5.6 days in February and 4.2 days in March.

Technically, 2020 was a white Christmas in the UK, with six percent of weather stations recording snowfall. However, only 4% reported any snow lying on the ground.

The last true white Christmas in the UK was in 2010, when a whopping 83% of stations reporting snow on the ground. This was the highest amount ever recorded.

This was the second successive white Christmas, with 13% of stations recorded snow or sleet falling, and 57% reporting snow on the ground.

White Christmases are now much rarer than was previously the case, with a change to the calendar having a significant impact on the figures.

This effectively brought Christmas Day back by 12 days, thus placing it in a period where snowfall was statistically less likely.

However, white Christmases were undoubtedly more frequent in the UK during the 18th and 19th centuries than they are today.

During the 1900s there were 10 white Christmases in London if you include 1981 when there was a covering of snow on the ground resulting from falls on previous days.

Judging by the past 12 years, climate change appears to have reduced the possibility of a white Christmas in the UK.

As mentioned earlier, parts of Eastern Europe, Northern Europe and Asia have a greater chance than the UK of snowfall during the festive period.

Despite this, the UK still fares better than the southern hemisphere, with only one capital city - Dili, East Timor – experiencing December snow since 2009.

While many people in the UK yearn for a white Christmas, there are several sectors that would rather avoid any snowfall.

Sport is unquestionably high up the list in that respect, with Christmas and New Year an extremely lucrative period for the likes of football and horse racing.

The Premier League and Football League have packed programmes over Christmas, while the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park is one of the highlights of the National Hunt season.

A white Christmas can play havoc with these types of events, costing football clubs and racecourses millions of pounds if they are cancelled. There’s also a surge in demand for live football streams with inclement weather pushing some fans to watch games online.

They may not have to worry too much this year, with the Met Office forecasting that it is more likely to be mild and cloudy rather than snowy this Christmas.

The ‘extreme northwest’ of the UK has the best chance of a white Christmas, so pack your winter gear and head there if you want to see some festive snow.

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