Did you know that only about 15% of Swedes can expect a white Christmas? I grew up with the risk of snow between October and May, so this was a surprise to me. My childhood winters looked like in the photo above from Uppland in 1908.
This map is from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. It shows the frequence of white Christmases 1931-1980. The 80% line is roughly the border of the what is called Norrland (Northland) plus parts of the provinces Dalarna and Värmland. As large as that northern part of the country is, it only has about 15% of the population .
Both the climate and the population distribution has changed in the last century. It also happens that it snows in the south but melts before Christmas. So take this with a grain of salt, but it could give you an idea of the climate where your ancestor came from.
Where Scandinavia stands out is the darkness. Today winter solstice is only a month away in the northern hemisphere. Many of us are counting the days before the sun returns. In Sweden, even more so. There is actually supposed to be a connection with Saint Lucy’s Day, the celebration of the bringer of light. It is celebrated on 13 December, which was winter solstice in the Julian calendar.
To give an idea of how far north Sweden is, the next map shows Sweden moved to the west and placed over the North American continent. The southern tip of Sweden is placed over the Canadian town Mackenzie, BC. You can see that Sweden is comparable in latitudes to Alaska.
Sweden’s northern most point Three-Country Cairn is at 69° north . Here, the polar night lasts between 1 December and 10 January . The southernmost point Smygehuk is at 55° north . The shortest day here is 7 hours 3 minutes . The altitude of the sun on those shortest day is just over 10° . That means the sun barely reaches over the tree tops.
The short days and the bleak light can make you feel a bit sluggish. What was more important for our Swedish ancestors, is that it’s not enough light for plants to grow. That of course makes the season for growing crops significantly shorter. Many places around the world have equally harsh climates as Sweden. But one thing sets Scandinavian winters apart from winters in most of the populated world: the lack of light.
- https://www.scb.se/hitta-statistik/statistik-efter-amne/befolkning/befolkningens-sammansattning/befolkningsstatistik/pong/tabell-och-diagram/helarsstatistik–forsamling-landskap-och-stad/folkmangd-i-landskapen-den-31-december-2018/, retrieved 21 November 2019.
- https://www.smhi.se/data/meteorologi/sno/normal-frekvens-for-vita-jular-1931-1980-1.7954, retrieved 21 November 2019.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-Country_Cairn, retrieved 21 November 2019.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_night retrieved, 21 November 2019.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smygehuk retrieved, 21 November 2019.
- https://www.dinstartsida.se/solen-ort.asp?id=837, retrieved 21 November 2019.
- https://www.smhi.se/polopoly_fs/1.32091.1490013918!/image/malmo.png_gen/derivatives/Original/image/malmo.png retrieved 21 November 2019.
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