When I was young I seemed to spend most of the winter waiting for it to snow, of course most of the time it didn’t. I have memories of many Christmas Days where it rained and a few when the sun shone, but the best Christmas days were the ones when it snowed.
There weren’t many of these, but when I was lucky enough to awake to a blanket of white it seemed that Christmas really was that magical wonderland so often promised in the songs that played on our old fake walnut radio. After all, what is Christmas without snow or a walk in a winter wonderland and what point is there in looking out if the snow isn’t deep, and crisp, and even?
When it snowed Christmas was transformed. All the kids on our estate would gather on the large grass quads, toys and presents almost forgotten in favour of snowball fights, sledging with homemade wooden sleighs and, of course, the need to build snowmen.
The snowmen we built were huge, often eight or nine feet tall. We’d start by rolling a ball of snow up and down the snow covered grass until it took five or six of us to push it along. Two or three boys would make a smaller ball and, when we were happy that we’d used as much of the snow as we could, the smaller ball would by manhandled (or rather boyhandled) up onto the larger one.
The head, a much smaller ball, came last and sometimes snow had to be gathered from neighbouring gardens to make it. Lumps of coal, carrot noses, stick arms, appeared from almost nowhere and then we’d take off our scarves and knot them together to make the longest scarf we possibly could. Finally, someone would rush indoors to borrow their father’s hat, although these were usually trilbies and not the top hats that we all invariably drew on our homemade Christmas cards at school.
By the time we’d finished, often hours later, our gloves would be covered in ice where the snow had melted, then frozen again, and our balaclavas would be discarded with the warmth from all that exercise.
Sometimes we’d look at the snowman for a while and then break into ‘sides’, one at the top of the quad, one at the bottom, the snowman in the middle and we’d hastily build snow walls, throwing our snowballs from behind them like hand grenades in one of the war films we watched at the Saturday matinee.
These days, old as I am, if it snows even just a little I’m out making a snowman. It doesn’t matter how small he is or if he has a hat or not, I just can’t resist making a man out of the snow.