Ice skating and European winters

I once had an Australian friend living in Europe. He was from Melbourne but had spent four of the previous six years at that time in Europe. He was a huge fan of Christmas markets, outdoor ice skating, and the general street life that one finds in Europe despite the often dreary winter conditions. I told him that I was surprised because I had imagined Australia to have much of a winter culture. He said that because it didn’t was exactly why he disliked winters in Australia but not Europe: in Melbourne, where according to him winters were only 4-5 months, people just miserably muddled through waiting for summer, and in Europe, again according to him, winters lasted about 8 months, so over centuries a ‘winter outdoors culture’ had developed.

The notion didn’t seem that profound to me, but as someone who had never really thought about it having grown up in places with 8-month winters, it stayed with me and every season when I go to a Christmas Market for the first time I have to think about it a little bit.

The longer I’ve pondered it the more interesting I think the concept it. It’s also in a way why I’ve been such a bit fan of ice skating, and other winter sports too, while being a little ambivalent to summers (despite the enthusiasm of nearly everyone around me).

While I do like summers and how convenient they are in terms of clothing and daylight, I just feel more at home in autumn and winter. It seems that in the autumn and early winter friends and family get together again to cook and talk and catch up. And when the weather gets a little bit colder, and people are starting to get sick of the cold and the dark, then it’s time to go ice skating (or snowshoeing or skiing). If one didn’t grow up with it I can imagine how spending time in the cold is a miserable idea, but for people like me it’s when we see our communities and cultures come together to make the best out of what is traditionally a difficult season.

It feels very basic and very fun and with enjoyable outdoor activities like ice skating it’s something that has me looking forward to it every year!