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Bicultural Urbanite Luke
Dreaming of a White Christmas

Luke Troynar on holiday in Kitzbühel
© Luke Troynar

One of my favourite novelties of being an Australian expat in Germany used to be the snowy festive seasons, a Disney-esque delight that global warming seems to be eradicating from modern-day life in Berlin.

By Luke Troynar

It’s that time of year again: temperatures have dropped, the days are short and Christmas lights are glimmering all around town. But there’s one motif missing from this classic seasonal picture: snow. Luminous, heartwarming snow. Granted, the ever-capricious weatherman never could guarantee the kind of white Christmas that Bing Crosby proverbially wished for in his 1942 hit carol. But amid our modern climate crisis, Crosby’s wistfully crooned lyrics are starting to take on a whole new meaning.
 
My love of snow has long been a point of contention among my German friends. What is for an Australian expat a quaint novelty that makes the bitter cold of Berlin winters bearable, is for German natives simply a standard nuisance that equates to mucky floors and slipping around on the streets. After all, Germans grew up with the stuff falling in piles like clockwork every year.

I remember a snowy night out with a German friend during my inaugural winter back in 2010/11, where the Berliner was bemused by my enchantment with what she basically saw as dirty frozen rain. She simply couldn’t imagine snow not being a normal and a slightly inconvenient part of annual life.

LONESOME FLAKES

Fast forward nine years, and snow is becoming something of a novelty for everyone in Berlin. According to worldweatheronline.com, the peak of Berlin’s cold season back in 2010 enjoyed 22 days of snowfall in January with an average 8.6 centimetres; last year it snowed just 8 days in the same period with a meagre 1.6-centimeter average. Snow fall graphic from website worldweatheronline.com The decrease in Berlin's snow fall over the last 10 years has been dramatic | © World Weather Online Anecdotally in the city centre it felt like even less. The few lonesome flakes that occasionally appeared and drifted down from the sky mostly evaporated before they even had a chance to hit the ground. And as late-December rolls around, the streets of the German capital look set to remain eerily bare yet again.

Now I’m no climate change expert, but unless you’re a member of Donald Trump’s cabinet you’ll likely see this phenomenon as an alarming acceleration of global warming. An article published last year by Deutsche Welle explains how “unreasonably warm” temperatures in Germany are indeed resulting in less snowfall throughout the country. Berlin's Maybachufer in the winter time A thin layer of snow lies on the ground beside Berlin's Maybachufer | © Luke Troynar

Frosty nostalgia

It’s frightening to think that the days of Berlin periodically transforming into a winter wonderland of phosphorescence - of regularly waking up to the inimitable neighbourhood hush that comes from a freshly fallen batch of thick snow - are starting to feel like a distant memory.
 
The rapidness of this shift since my first few winters here has left me nostalgic for frostier times and, quite frankly, a little disturbed. If things continue this way, The Local website predicts Berlin will be “as hot as Australia” in the next 30 years, a prospect that would make dreaming of a white Christmas more like waiting on a Christmas miracle. 
 

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