At this time of the year, we are looking forward to spring, even though spring is officially about a month and a half away, which puts us slap in the middle of winter. There are signs, though, that spring is around the corner. Plants which bloom early in the year are starting to show signs of life, and the buds on some trees are showing some green as they prepare to burst into green bunches of leaves.
Every burst of clear weather seems to produce both warmth during the days and frostiness during the night. It seems that each cycle is slightly warmer than the last but that might just be me wishing an end to winter! The wetter times don’t seem to be bringing the freezing cold wintry blasts, though there is the occasional shower of hail or sleet mixed in.
The main reason for the hope that winter is drawing to a close is the now noticeable lengthening of the days. The day length is up from 9 hours and 12 minutes or so at the solstice to 10 hours and 12 minutes or so today. The day is lengthening at a rate of more than 2 minutes per day at the moment.
I don’t mind the cold as such. It’s the constant shrugging on and off of clothes as one transitions between indoors and outdoors that bugs me, and the necessity of keeping the house warm, which in itself means going outdoors to fetch fuel, which of course involves donning extra clothing and all the annoyances which go with that.
There is a sort of seasonal drag in the clothing department, incidentally. I’ve noticed that I tend to resist slinging on the extra clothing in autumn and early winter and I’m likewise reluctant to take it off as the weather and temperatures improve.
Of course, July and August are the warmer months in the Northern hemisphere and northerners will be experiencing shorter days and colder weather. As we track in to spring you Northerners will be heading towards autumn and eventually winter. We will be looking forward to spring and summer, which pretty much bracket Christmas for us.
Of course, since I originate from the Northern hemisphere myself I have had to become accustomed to having Christmas in summer and I personally think it’s great. With Christmas at the start of summer we can enjoy it without the hassle of keeping warm. It does make the traditional northern Christian festival meal seem a bit heavy though and who want to roast a turkey for hours in warm weather?
It does conflate two events however – the Christmas holiday period and the traditional summer holidays which seem to merge seamlessly into one another. One effect of this is that people seem to be unavailable from Christmas Eve through to the beginning of February, which was something that I had trouble adjusting to when I moved here.
Tradesmen tend to be unavailable from the start of the Christmas period well into the New Year and some smaller shops also close for an extra week or two. Obviously this has its advantages for the shop keepers, but I still feel disappointed when my favourite barber is closed until mid-January!
We have a Public Holiday for the Queen’s Birthday in June (June 1 this year) and the next Public Holiday is on October 26, which means that there is almost 5 months of the year without a Public Holiday during the darkest part of the year. One advantage of having Christmas in mid-winter is that it gives one something to look forward to as the days close in.
Winter is cold, obviously, but that in itself is bearable (up to a point). But there’s a phenomenon called the “chill factor” which makes windy winter days seem much colder. My weather app on my phone tells me that the temperature outside is 6.9 degrees centigrade, but the it “feels like: 4 degrees centigrade. It recommends 3 – 4 layers of clothing and a windproof layer. Brrrrr! Fortunately it doesn’t seem too wet out so walking the dog should not be too arduous.
In this season of the year we tend to get low pressure system after low pressure system forming in the Tasman Sea which bring cold fronts across the country with associated fronts bringing storms and rains. Sometimes they come down from the tropics and hit us from the north, usually bringing warmer but wetter weather from the north. We tend to get better more settled weather when a high pressure system comes to us, spun off from a high pressure system over Australia.
(I took a break and walked the dog. While we out we were hit by what you could euphemistically call a “wintry shower”. In other words, wind, hail and rain!)
Many people from the Northern hemisphere tend to find Christmas in summer unsettling, but I quite like it. I’m not a barbecue person, but the occasional meal taken outside is very pleasant, and it is becoming more usual over here to have a barbecue on Christmas Day. Another advantage is that when one is Christmas shopping one doesn’t have to dodge the weather as one dashes between shops and fights one’s way through the crowds of late shoppers, all after that elusive and critical last gift.
However, although I think that mulled wine is an abomination, there is something pleasant about sipping your favourite alcoholic tipple in front of a roaring fire. Maybe while doing something traditional, like listening to a CD of carols carefully enunciated by Korean choirs who have no word of the English language and who have little to no idea about the traditions involved.
One thing about having winter at this time of the year, it means that I can tease relatives who live in the Northern hemisphere as we climb up towards warmer weather while they slide down to autumn and winter. However I have to acknowledge that they can get their revenge in six months later as the cycle of the seasons continues to repeat. I’ll be looking out the thermal undies when they start talking about snowdrops and crocuses.