Christmas History 25. It’s that time of year again! Last year I wrote 24 Christmas History articles for Windows into History, and if you would like to view those please click on the Contents link in the menu bar above, and scroll down to all the Christmas History articles. You can also type Christmas History into the search bar on the right of the screen.
Now we are into December, let’s get into the Christmas spirit by looking at a quote from the snappily titled Forest Scenes and Incidents in the Wilds of North America, Being a Diary of a Winter’s Route from Halifax to the Canadas by George Head. Although it was not published until 1829, the book relates a journey undertaken by Head in 1815, in his position as assistant commissary-general of the commissariat of the 3rd division of the Spanish army. Beginning his journey in Halifax, he describes the mesmerising sight of people going about their business after the first fall of snow.
I had remained a few days at my hotel, when the weather became overcast, with indications of an approaching fall of snow, which, soon beginning to descend in soft broad flakes, continued for many hours, till it lay on the ground to a very considerable depth. The next morning it had drifted so as to render many parts of the town impassable till a way had been cleared; and the shopkeepers and their boys, in fur caps and red nightcaps, with canvas sleeves over their arms and broad shovels in their hands, were to be seen every where hard at work throwing aside the snow accumulated before their dwellings. It had covered the doors and lower windows of some of the houses, so that the people were obliged to burrow their way like moles into daylight; and one wondered now, at the very beginning of a winter, how the quantities of snow likely to fall during the season could ever be disposed of. The day was particularly fine after the storm; every body seemed busy and animated, and servants were running backwards and forwards with bells, straps, buckles, and harness of all sorts, to prepare for sleigh driving.
At an early hour the first heavy sleighs, laden with wood, coal, and other articles of merchandize, were to be seen laboriously advancing through the deep fresh snow, which becoming by degrees trodden towards the middle of the day, the fresh painted, lighter vehicles were allured from their summer’s rest. Then damsels with pretty chins wrapped in fur bade a short adieu to mammas (not here required by custom as chaperones) to take a seat beside their anxious beaux; till smiling faces, tingling bells, and trotting horses were encountered in every corner of the town. Now came the time to look about one: hardly a third part of the space in the street was passable; and as the sleighs came dashing by, one thought oneself lucky, at the expense of a jump up to the hips in a snowbank, to escape being knocked over once in every five minutes.