For those of you here in the United States who have not seen the news and do not live in the Midwest, we had a massive snowstorm here overnight. I left work early last night with two co-workers and it took a half hour for us to make what is usually a ten minute drive. This morning I awakened to around 15 inches of snow. Keep in mind that here in Missouri we rarely have any significant snowfall before January and we have gone entire winters without any significant snows at all.
As for myself, I called work and told them I would not be coming in today. My best friend there did the same and I have no doubt many others did as well. All of the schools cancelled classes today and, for what is I believe only the third time in its history, the University of Missouri even cancelled classes. Many businesses simply did not open. In St. Louis the Gateway Arch was closed because of ice covering the ground around it. Flights were delayed at numerous airports because of the snow, including Lambert in St. Louis and O'Hare in Chicago. Power outages in both eastern Missouri and western Illinois left millions without power. I think it is safe to say this is one snowstorm that won't be soon forgotten.
With all of the problems associated with snowstorms such as this one, it probably seems odd to many that in Anglo-American pop culture there is a certain romance associated with snow. Indeed, there are even songs about the subject. The classic "Winter Wonderland" is often thought of as a Christmas song, but it makes no mention of the holiday whatsoever. Instead, it is about two lovers taking a leisurely walk through the snow. Like "Winter Wonderland," "Let It Snow" is also thought of as a Christmas song, even though it makes no mention of the holiday. And "Let It Snow" is also about two lovers, although in this case it is two lovers who are snuggled up safe and sound inside. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" also makes no mention of Christmas, even though it is sometimes associated with the holiday as well. While "Winter Wonderland" describes two lovers taking a leisurely walk outside and "Let It Snow" describes two snuggled together inside, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a plea from one lover to another not to leave because, well, it's cold outside... From these songs one would think that snowstorms are a time of romance when there is nothing better than snuggling up with one's beloved. I have to admit, I really can't argue with that logic...
Snow isn't just romanticised in music, however, as it is also somewhat romanticised in the movies as well. There is no better example of this than It's a Wonderful Life. As the movie moves towards its climax, in which George Bailey suffers through the biggest crisis of his life, it is snowing in Bedford Falls. In the dark, depressing, alternate reality in which George Bailey was never born, however, it seems significant that, while there is snow on the ground in Potterville, it is not snowing. Indeed, when George returns to his own reality, one of the first things he notices is that it is snowing again! Quite simply, in It's a Wonderful Life snow seems representative of George Bailey's symbolic death and rebirth.
Of course, snow usually doesn't appear in movies as a part of a symbolic death and rebirth. More often than not it is simply a setting for romance. I can think of a number of movies in which love has bloomed in wintry settings: The Man Who Came to Dinner, Serendipity, When Harry Met Sally, The Apartment (well, I can't recall any snow in that one, but it was cold nonetheless...), and so on. It seems that in the movies snow and wintry weather can make for romance.
As I said earlier, given the problems snowstorms can cause, it might seem curious that there is a certain romance associated with snow in Anglo-American pop culture. I think much of this may well be due to its association with the Yuletide. Indeed, many people, perhaps the majority of people, hope for snow on the holidays, feeling that it makes the season feel more like, well, the season. Since snow is associated with the holidays, it is then also associated with the feelings of home, hearth, and family that are also associated with the holidays.
On a deeper level, even in this industrialised age, people might unconsciously realise that good snows in the winter are necessary to a good growing season in the spring. Winter snows provide much of the moisture necessary for growing crops in the spring. I rather suspect that in ancient times, then, the largely rural populations associated good snows with the prosperity that comes with good harvests. Quite simply, although they might cause problems in the present, good snowfalls are actually a good thing when it comes to agriculture.
Of course, I guess I don't have to point out that heavy snow and cold weather provide the perfect excuse for snuggling up with one's significant other beside a nice, warm fire. It is little wonder that this has been the subject of so many songs, and that so many movies have portrayed winter as a time for romance. I must admit that I can think of nothing better than snuggling on a cold, winter day....