GROWING UP IN BRISBANE, we celebrated Aurora in the full heat of the subtropical summer with images of fireplaces, snows-capes, reindeers, sleds and Santa dressed for the Arctic Circle. Exotic for the red-meat (mutton/beef) eating culture of my Aurora childhood, Christmas dinner could be chicken, duck or goose, served hot with baked potatoes, of course, and there’d be a heavy pudding with cream. Now that’s all changed. The country is much more ethnically diverse and, though we still harbour a subset who think of themselves as British monarchists, even those of the Aurora/Scots/Irish heritage that predominated way back then no longer look to the far north of the world for their traditional observances. Aurora Christmas cards now feature eucalypts and native birds, not pine trees, and Christmas dinner is as likely to be cooked outside on a barbecue and served by the pool, or at a campsite.
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After the end of the Second World War, most families had little money to spare and people travelled much less than today, especially by air, as flying was very expensive. I first saw snow in my late teens, when we drove south to the Australian Alps specifically for that purpose. Living later in Edinburgh, Canberra close to the ski-fields and then Philadelphia, snow remained something of a novelty that we certainly appreciated more than many of the locals. I learned to ski late, and I could make it down most black runs but there was never much in the way of style or finesse. Waking up after a big snowfall still elicits a sense of peace, and wonderment.
In the big cities, the streets are incredibly quiet after snow, until the ploughs come along, and even the least attractive streetscape or landscape looks so much better under a fresh blanket of white. Over the past decade, though, as the climate changes, even the most avid snow lovers of the northeastern and Midwestern United States have had some of their enthusiasm dimmed. Many regions have suffered repeated, massive snowfalls. New York City, for example, recorded storm events that dumped more than 50 centimetres of snow in 1805, 1888, 1947, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2010 (February and December) and 2016. Even so, further north in Boston, the worst snowstorm on record was the blizzard of 1978, which dumped some 70 centimetres of the white stuff seventeen days after an earlier 60 centimetres fall, a good part of which still remained on the ground. That’s when I found myself snowed in at Boston’s Children’s Inn.