December 21st, 2011

Houston History: The Holidays Through the Ages

Anyone who has been in Houston long enough, knows that the weather rarely cooperates to align with any sort of commercialized Christmas fantasy (exhibit Thomas Kinkade).

In places that weren’t built atop humid subtropical swamps, predicting the weather for Christmas doesn’t turn into an annual mercury-induced identity crisis. At most, we can hope for it to be cold, maybe a little ice to render everyone homebound to “enjoy” the company of loved ones, and the once-in-a-blue moon snow flurry (like that ONE year where everyone made snowmen and snowwomen and posted pictures on Facebook to show that Houston could compare in the one area that it sometimes falls short of idealized perfection: the weather).

There are always the few that seem perplexed by the potential temperature gamut of 11- 82°F (KHOU records). As it turns out, annual weather amnesia and the subsequent bitchfest is nothing new for Houston. A correspondent from the Texas Congressional Convention of 1842 reported that “Christmas with us has not been characterized with any of the accompanyments usually attendant upon the return of its smiling countenance. The day has been gloomy, wet, and any thing but pleasant; and with the exception of a few straggling events, nothing has transpired to remind us that ‘Merry Christmas’ has really paid us another visit.”

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Shortly before Christmas, 1858, a Houston newspaper reported “What with the drizzling rains, cloudy weather and crowd of business on the streets we are now in the enjoyment of very nearly the ultimate of mud in our streets”, and shortly after the big day: “Christmas was exceedingly muddy and disagreeable. It was enjoyed mostly in doors, by the cheerful fire side, and around the festive board”. Apparently, the weather fell short of expectations again in 1869 when the paper reported, “Old Texans say winter is half over at Christmas. We have had no winter worth speaking of yet.”

An article from the 1899 Christmas Eve Edition of The Houston Post, despite some damage to the left margin, continues the theme: “…some wretched weather in the…cold, drizzling rain, with heavy…clouds of that dull sombre…that seems to give no promise of…things, and yet I met so many people who said, with a cheery smile, ‘We are having regular Christmas weather’”.

History-piercing words and research by Clint Drake (bibliography upon request)

— The Loop Scoop

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