When I was a little boy, Christmas, cold and snow, lots of it, were so bound in one image that I could not imagine Christmas without it. It was even part of the church pageants, so it must have been in the bible somewhere. In about the third grade, a classmate came back from a Christmas trip to Florida with tales of warm weather and beaches. It seemed reasonable to me that Christmas was not celebrated in Florida, nor could it have been. That kind of weather forbade it. So I asked if him. Nope, he hadn’t celebrated Christmas, thus my theory was confirmed to be true. That he was Jewish was irrelevant because I didn’t know what that meant anyway.
I was more sophisticated by the fifth grade. In fact, I knew that the southern hemisphere had summer when we were having winter. And so it was perfectly obvious that to celebrate Christmas in Australia you had to do it in July. The tropics were still a logistical problem, but since I had never been there, it was a purely hypothetical one. Curiously, places like Africa and South America were relegated to the same mental shelf upon which lay Mars and the Moon. Australia was a hard enough problem.
You may smirk, but it’s an image deeply ingrained in the mythology of America’s Christmas, so much so that, some years ago, I was unsurprised to see a Honolulu shopping center outfitted with fake snow, an ice rink, and North Pole looking characters walking around “dressed up like Eskimos.” I was reminded of all of this while listening to Pandora’s Christmas music station littered with romantic American standards of winter wonderlands.
I don’t mind. I still live in the north, so Christmas and winter are very much a part of how I think of the holiday season, and I love it. Global warming may have done a number on how many white Christmases we can look forward to, but the hope for one is still there. When that gets stripped away, what are you left with? Only the nativity of our Lord, beautiful sacred music, and a season of joyful sharing. Or, as some members of my extended family would say, Mele Kalikimaka, which is Hawaiian for “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” Don’t believe me? Look it up.