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A World of Wonder: Weather Scrooges Should Warm Their Hearts to New England Winters

Michael J. Ring

Winter has come early this year. We haven't even carved the Thanksgiving turkey, and already the New England skies have offered us an amalgam of sleet, snow and freezing rain. And all signs point to a snowy winter.

There will always be people who will grumble about New England winters. "It's too cold," the Scrooges tell us, "I hate the snow." And there will be thousands who flee to Miami or Phoenix and thousands more who wish they could.

Let them go to the Sun Belt - don't let them spoil the year's most wonderful season for the rest of us. The New England winter is a season of celebration and enjoyment. Special sights and experiences available at no other time of the year captivate the true New Englander. The cold, crisp, Canadian air carries a magical quality, illuminating city and country alike. There is no better time to savor the true spirit and character of New England than in the winter.

I always say with all the Yankee pride and pompousness I can muster that Boston is the greatest city in the world. Unlike most American cities, the Hub is not a concrete urban wasteland. It is a city of history, of charm, and of character. Many cities display sadly neglected urban cores, but downtown Boston is alive with commerce and activity. There is no better month to appreciate the Boston character than December.

For over two centuries Faneuil Hall has served the people of Boston as a center of commercial exchange. Today, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters walk in the footsteps of Hancock and Adams, they funnel in and out of historic buildings, browsing through specialty shops for that perfect holiday gift. The flurries falling on the merchants and patrons scatter magic through the crisp air. At twilight the sounds of carolers and bell ringers echo through the brick courtyard, while the Christmas tree, coated with a dusting of pure white snow, twinkles above. Even the usually stern visage of Samuel Adams seems more warm and inviting, infused by the spirit of the holiday.

Down Washington Street Boston hosts another vibrant urban marketplace. The Downtown Crossing area is alive with the holiday spirit as well. Crowds jam the subway to shop the flagship store of the venerable William Filene's and Sons Company, or haggle over bargains at the Basement. On the surface shoppers browse the merchants' carts or sit down to enjoy a hot cup of coffee or chocolate and watch the city's life go by.

In the Back Bay, just across the Harvard Bridge from MIT, shoppers flood Newbury Street boutiques and Prudential Center shops in search of holiday gifts. The Pru's Christmas Tree, the tallest in the city, is another New England tradition. It is a gift from the people of Nova Scotia, who still remember the generosity of the people of Boston eighty years ago in helping the Canadian province rebuild after a coal mining disaster.

The week after Christmas, the city celebrates again with the nation's first and greatest First Night. Street performers of all kinds entertain the city throughout the 31st, while sculptors display their work in ice. At midnight all eyes focus upon the Custom House Tower for a mingling of technology and tradition that is quintessentially Boston. The grand old lady of Boston's skyline plays host to a laser show, which dazzles the spectators assembled to welcome the new year.

But the 31st of December is not the end of the mirth and merriment. The enchantment of the city, and indeed all of New England, lasts all winter.

A pure white dusting of snow and a glaze of ice decorate the city. A covering of snow enhances the soft glow of the lamps on Marlborough Street. The quaint, narrow brick streets of Beacon Hill are even more charming with a layer of white powder underfoot. The lion and unicorn guarding the Old State House welcome the blanket of white enhancing the features of the most historic, charming building in the city. Walk through the Public Garden after an ice storm and observe the trees and shrubbery glistening under a fresh coat of ice, and you will understand the magic of a New England winter.

The ice and snow lend a natural beauty to the landscape that can only be truly appreciated in the New England countryside. Small villages are transformed into Winter Wonderlands. Cold, white-capped streams roaring under covered bridges, deer prancing through snow-covered meadows, and spruce trees are only a few of the idyllic scenes you may encounter in the enchanted forests of the upcountry.

Perhaps the greatest reflection of winter's magic is in the disposition of New England natives. Whiners may grumpily yearn for the Florida sun, but the true Yankee spirit enjoys the simple pleasures of winter. The New England winter is a season for the young and the young-at-heart to indulge in play and discovery. Children love to lace their skates and take to a frozen pond for a game of hockey. I remember fondly my own childhood sledding on the steep hills of central Massachusetts. People of all ages gather at the Boston Common Frog Pond to skate. Others indulge in winter play by flocking north for weekends of skiing. The Yankee brings a friendly, open spirit to the celebration of winter and seeks to share the season with one and all.

As we enter the New England winter, do not become a Scrooge. Do not shut yourself off to the pleasures of the season. Enjoy the excitement and festivity of the season. Keep a jovial spirit and a happy heart, and you will be enchanted by the spirit of New England. The season is yours to find and enjoy; I wish you glad tidings and success in its discovery.