Royal Mail’s Christmas stamps are always eagerly anticipated and the wait is now over! Incredibly charming and nostalgic, this year’s stamps feature stunning illustrations by Andrew Davidson. Each showcases a scene from everyday life incorporating a post box. Celebrating how ‘Royal Mail delivers Christmas’, this issue will undoubtedly prove to be popular with all postal enthusiasts.
Dreaming of a white Christmas?
The Christmas stamps for 2018 conjure thoughts of white Christmases past. Festive imagery tends to be dominated by snowy scenes but how often do our postmen and postwomen actually have to trudge through the snow to deliver our seasonal mail?
Well, that depends exactly where in the UK they are making their deliveries! Scotland and North Wales unsurprisingly enjoy more white Christmases than the rest of the nation and in the south of England, white Christmases are comparatively rare.
The Met Office defines a white Christmas as ‘one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK.’ This means that the UK has technically experienced a white Christmas 38 times in the last 54 years. But one snowflake doesn’t a white Christmas make! Widespread snow across the country at Christmas is unusual and has only occurred four times in the last 51 years. The Met Office considers snow to be widespread if more than 40% of its stations in the UK report snow on the ground at 9am on Christmas Day.
When was the last white Christmas?
Christmas falls earlier in the winter than the months which deliver the highest chance of snowfall in the UK. Snow is far more likely during January and February which makes you wonder why snow is synonymous with the season of goodwill. Perhaps it is because white Christmases occurred much more regularly in the 18th and 19th centuries when so many of our festive traditions were established.
In 1752, a change to the calendar effectively brought Christmas forward by 12 days and this reduced the likelihood of snow. In addition, there is little doubt that climate change has seriously impacted our weather patterns, creating higher temperatures over both land and sea.
The last widespread white Christmas in the UK occurred in 2010 as you probably recall. The country experienced freak weather conditions which resulted in 83% of Met Office stations reporting snow on the ground. This was the highest proportion since records began. The previous year, 57% of stations reported snow on the ground. 2015 was also technically a white Christmas but only 10% of stations reported snow falling and none noted any snow actually lying on the ground. If 2015 was a white Christmas, it was one which would have passed most of us by!
Freak weather at Christmas
Of course, snow isn’t the only variety of precipitation that we experience at Christmas in the UK. It can rain too and the unlucky residents of Gwynedd, Wales suffered the wettest Christmas on record in 2015. An incredible 165mm of rain fell on the big day to deliver more of a washout than a whiteout. It was Co. Durham which experienced the coldest ever Christmas in 1878 when temperatures dropped to a very chilly -18.3°C.
Will we have a white Christmas this year?
As early as September, forecasters were warning that this winter could be one of the coldest on record. Apparently, El Nino could bring arctic blasts to our shores as soon as the beginning of December. We have heard all this before, of course. It isn’t uncommon to be regaled with grim predictions of the apocalypse only to experience a mild day with a little drizzle at Christmas. But our weather is certainly becoming more extreme and so this year we just might see impressive snowfall.
The Stamp Issue
We probably won’t know what sort of weather to expect at Christmas until the week before. One thing is certain, though. Our postal workers will continue to deliver the mail come rain or shine. Our festive mail will be adorned by eight fabulous stamps this year! The Christmas 2018 issue also includes first day covers, a presentation pack, a generic sheet and stamp cards. It remains to be seen whether the snowy scenes in the charming illustrations are predictions or wishful thinking!