Articles, Books, Germany


It has snowed for the first time just a few days ago and the city is still all covered in white. There is something magical about the first snow of the year. And even if, months later, you get absolutely tired of all that white and cold and yearn for spring and flowers and warmth, this initial magic never leaves you. It feels too much like a fairy tale.

I grew up reading lots of books. My mom says I learned to read at age four. It’s possible. I don’t remember much of the early readings. But I do remember, a bit later on, fairy tales and comic books as the usual things I read. Tintin, Asterix, Mortadelo y Filemón in the comics department, and all kinds of fairy tales. There was a particular collection I liked, divided by country or region of origin — Russian Fairy Tales, Chinese Fairy Tales, European Fairy Tales, etc.

One of my favourite fairy tales, still today, is Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”. Today’s children are probably much more familiar with Disney’s “Frozen” — the animation may have a few qualities and nice songs, but it has almost nothing to do with Andersen’s tale. There is a good animated version from the Soviet Union from 1957 which is pretty faithful to the original story and is not bad at all. It has even inspired the great Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. I showed it to children a few years ago who grew up with Youtube Kids and Tik Tok and they enjoyed it.

There may be other good animated versions, I don’t know. But the best thing is to read the full story in Andersen’s original. It is available in different public domain versions on Gutenberg or Wikimedia Sources. Of course, you can also purchase the illustrated book here.

“The Snow Queen” makes no direct references to Christmas, although it takes place in Winter and has some Christian allusions, including a biblical reference at the very end. But, with all that snow, it does feel like a Christmas story.

We barely started the Advent, and I am already in a Christmas mood.

Having grown up in South America, and then having lived for a while for different periods in warm places such as Sicily, Spain and California, I am definitely not a “winter person”. I lived in Canada for a few years, and one of the reasons I left was that I could not stand 6 months of extremely cold winter every year. Now, at least for the moment (we never know about the future) I am in Germany, which is almost as bad, but not quite — perhaps it’s five months of winter instead of six, and the temperatures do not usually get as low as in Canada, so it’s survivable. Plus, they have wonderful Christmas markets. Christmas season is really nice here.

And I like snow, and, in particular, snow during the Christmas period. If anything, it’s the lack of light that is the most depressing aspect of winter to me, and the bright whiteness of snow helps with that. And of course, you can play with snow in a way that you cannot with rain. All children love snow. It started snowing just a few days ago and already you see children throwing snowballs at each other, building snowmen or sledding down the little hill next to the church.

I love the Scandinavian countries and cultures, but, probably, I could not live there for a long period of time. The opposites of almost permanent night in winter and almost permanent day in summer are too much to bear. I survive better in lower latitudes. But there’s a lot to like about it, even in winter.

As the world seems to descend more and more into chaos and hate and war and murder and panic and anxiety, it is nice to be able to just sit next to a stove watching the snow falling outside, and to put up Christmas decorations, and to hear the voice of children playing in the snow, and to feel that life sometimes — at least sometimes, and usually around Christmas — can also be like a little fairy tale.