Summer Never Arrived So Let’s Do Winter


Wet Again

It always rains at London’s Notting Hill Carnival, and it did again this week. Why we think August would be anything but wet and horrible is a mystery. Enough of pretending we’re not freezing in shorts and T-shirts – after yet another miserable, cold, wet, non-existent ‘summer’ here I am now revising my options. This was the coldest, wettest summer in decades, and the urban density of the city helps to keep the city clouded over. We also have to add the switching of the Gulf Stream as the Arctic ice melts, so that the famously changeable weather has become violent and unstable.

We never did summer in the city very well anyway; Londoners return to layered clothes with a look of relief on their faces, so let’s move on to winter. Every year I visit a Christmas market somewhere interesting, and I’m thinking of returning to Austria for Perchten. Austrians always minded their ancient customs and ancient traditions, especially in the mountain villages which are difficult to access, where some old customs and traditions survived through the centuries.


There are plenty of ghosts and demons loose during the long cold nights in midwinter. In Salzburg the deep-rooted belief in the Perchten was once widespread. The origins of this belief are probably based on Germanic traditions based on female divinity. Frau Perchta (Ms. Perchta) was a demonic creator, half god, half human, who appears at the turn of the year accompanied by various evil figures. She watches over the people and protects them against bad demons, but also metes out punishment.

In the 16th century her name was also given to the evil creatures accompanying her, and young men wearing fearsome wooden masks moved from house to house to banish the demons and ghosts. During the 17th and 18th centuries the church tried to ban Perchten customs with no success: in the 19th century the Perchtenläufe became popular again.


Traditionally on December 5th and 6th St. Nicolaus walks from house to house in the cities and villages to admonish and praise young and old. He is accompanied by a Krampus, who punished bad children and adults on St. Nicolaus′ command. For the honest children he has little presents.

I like this ritual. Our image of Santa Claus owes his appearance to Coca Cola, but St Nick and the Krampus are much more interesting. Salzburg at Christmas is ridiculously pretty, and this year I have a second plan involving Transylvania’s bizarre underground funfair – I’ll see what my friends think about that before I start booking tickets!


15 comments on “Summer Never Arrived So Let’s Do Winter”

  1. Vivienne says:

    Wasn’t it Thatcher, though, who moved August Bank Holiday from the first Monday in August to the last? Determined to spoil even the barest chance of summer fun for us all.

  2. Bangbang!! says:

    Only 113 sleeps till Christmas! Yayyy!!! However, our Santa was around befor Coke got their hands on him.


  3. Alan says:

    Here’s that underground funfair – Salina Turda. Fascinating!

  4. C Falconer says:

    Well the schools are going back now, that’s usually a reliable prod for the weather to brighten up (so coolish nights for sleeping and warm sunny days to enjoy)

  5. admin says:

    Oh you mad optimist!

  6. Helen Martin says:

    We always felt that the rain started as soon as we went back to school – especially university when we had to stand outside in long lines registering for classes. This year we had no rain or cloudy weather from beginning of June till the last weekend in August when we had a rain and windstorm that brought down 500 trees and left parts of Greater Vancouver without power from Sat. to Wed. We’re now just having reasonable showers and clouds.

    Oh to have an abandoned salt mine in the area! All the wonders that could be built.

  7. chris hughes says:

    I blame Mrs T for all kinds of things (she said diplomatically) but sadly we can’t blame her for moving the August Bank Holiday which as I remember was altered some time in the 60’s. Not sure if it was at the same time but the Whit Bank Holiday which was as unfixed as Easter became the Spring Bank Holiday too. And when did he become Santa Claus rather than Father Christmas? I blame the Americans – and would love for the whole midwinter thing to become a little darker – perhaps we could lose the imported Hallowe’en too?

  8. BangBang!! says:

    Sorry Chris, most of our Halloween traditions can’t be laid at the door of our American chums either. Dressing in costumes is a very old tradition for that time of year probably dating to Cetic times. Trick or Treat is based on our old Mischief Night and begging for Soul Cakes. Pumpkin carving comes from our turnip carving. I remember carving turnips when I was a lad. They are way more difficult than pumpkins. To be fair, the Americans are partly responsible for its increased popularity in modern times and they certainly commercialised the holiday. It’s always been a more popular holiday in places like Ireland and Scotland.

  9. chris hughes says:

    No, I was blaming Coca Cola for inventing the oversweet Santa Claus – sorry, probably a bit confused (me, I mean!). But it would be a step in the right direction for Hallowe’en to reflect more the Day of the Dead – All Saints Day, followed by All Souls Day – like Mexico -and steer it away from dressing up in Disney costumes – which is what my granddaughters do.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    It was scarier before parents (or someone) decided children should be safe and accompanied by adults. The streets were darker and older kids lurked everywhere with firecrackers they’d light and throw at you. Only twenty years ago we brought in our garbage cans and wedged sponges in the letter slot to reduce temptation.
    You would have had more Hallowe’en if Guy Faulkes and company hadn’t tried their little stunt and given England a closer day to celebrate. We had so many Scots and Irish that Hallowe’en took over here. The pumpkins were so much easier to carve and light that that change took no thought at all. UNICEF tried to encourage children to collect for those not so fortunate as we, but very few collected solely for them and they didn’t like it when I asked, “For you or for children elsewhere?” I usually gave them both, but I grumbled.

  11. Wayne Mook says:

    On the Mancunian Way a sink hole appeared due to heavy rain, 40ft deep and 15ft wide, another smaller hole appeared in the East Lancs road in Salford plus a third sink hole appeared near to the Mancunian Way and is the smallest of the 3 only 10ft deep and 5ft across, help my city is being washed away and is sinking.

    At this rate our Christmas Market will be floating on a pontoon.

    Have fun in Austria, admin.


  12. Helen Martin says:

    How heavy does rain have to be in order to create sinkholes like that, Wayne? I ask because we have just had a heavy rain ending the 3 month drought and I’d hate to think that is our next worry, especially since we could have sliding mountains as well.

  13. Wayne Mook says:

    It depends on the foundations used under roads, there has been some criticism, but we basically had all of August’s rain (and in Manchester we are not short of rain.) in about 3 hours, we also had several over downpours that had already weakened these places. With the cuts some repairs get washed under the carpet.


  14. Helen Martin says:

    “With the cuts some repairs get washed under the carpet.” I can only hope we don’t get rain such as you describe, or at least not until the ground is really well wetted. We were talking this morning about public bodies being penny smart and pound foolish so that things end up more costly to repair than to have been done right in the first place. Why not fill some of those holes with a few of the spare Council members you must have?

  15. Wayne Mook says:

    They are too slippery to stay in place, sadly.


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