Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A Green Christmas?

These days stores are concerned about a Green Christmas and that people aren't in the Christmas spirit to go out and buy. In times past that's not something our Ottawa ancestors worried about.

Google Ngram shows an increase in use of the term "Green Christmas" starting in about 1940, dwarfed by use of "White Christmas" -- Bing Crosby first crooned the song at that time.

The bar chart from the Ottawa Journal shows that although "green Christmas" was used from the early days of the paper, it was in sentences like "green Christmas wreath".
Use increased from the 1940s onward. On 24 December 1942 there was mention of it being the greenest Christmas in Ottawa's recent history. In 1949 the paper reported "it's going to be a Green Christmas" on the 24th, the previous year on the 23rd "it sure looks like a Green Christmas for Ottawa", a previous item that year had looked back to the Green Christmas of 1923. The term was not found in that year although the warmth was remarked on. The Journal reported that 1964 was the first green Christmas in 20 years.

Since 1961 records of the depth of snow on the ground day by day have been kept in Ottawa. The average snow depth has been 14 cm on 25 December. The graph shows that generally the more snow on the 15th, the more on the 25th. In that 54 year period there have been 7 years (13%) with a trace or no snow on the ground on the 25th (2006, 2003, 1999, 1996, 1979, 1967 and 1964) and 12 years (22%) with a trace or less of snow on the ground on the 15th. Four of those 7 Green Christmases had snow on the ground on the 15th.

What about the prospects for 2015? Present long-range forecasts predict light snow, or perhaps freezing rain, early next week which will likely be washed away by rain before Christmas Day. That's despite there presently being a strong El Nino ongoing. Three years in the period of record had strong or very strong El Ninos. Surprisingly none of them were Green Christmases in Ottawa.

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