It's that time of year again where all our thoughts turn to Christmas and in particular, will it snow on Christmas Day? Below we take a look at the odds and how likely a snowfall at Christmas is.
How Likely Is A White Christmas
For many people, snow is what Christmas is all about. We see it portrayed on Christmas cards, in movies, and there are plenty of songs and carols to sing along with; from Sammy Cahn’s ‘Let It Snow’, to that old Christmas favourite ‘Good King Wenceslas’. But for most of us in the UK, Christmas is just at the beginning of the period when snow becomes possible, so betting on a White Christmas is not quite the ‘sure thing’ that many of us think it might be. Of course, Bing dreams of one every year, and the bookies are happy to take bets on a White Christmas with every betting slip they write. But just what are the chances of a White Christmas?
Looking at snow history, wintry weather is more likely between January and March than December. On average snow or sleet falls on about 5 days in December, compared to 7.6 days in January, 6.8 days in February and 6 days in March; so in many ways betting on a White Christmas is a bit of a long shot. It wasn’t always that way though. Waking up to a White Christmas was more common in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the calendar was changed in 1752, bringing Christmas Day back by 12 whole days – the original 12 days of Christmas.
On average snow or sleet falls on about 5 days in December!
Of course recent climatic change has brought higher than average temperatures and this generally reduces the odds of a white Christmas. However, on the other side of the snowman, we’re also experiencing what is beginning to be known as ‘weird weather’, short freak weather occurrences in and out of season, so anything can and probably will happen.
What Defines A White Christmas
But just what is a White Christmas? For children of all ages everywhere, a White Christmas means a complete covering of snow which falls and settles on Christmas day in the morning – snowman building, snowball fights, and of course sledging. However, the definition used most widely, particularly by the bookies, is that a single snowflake will drift to the ground some time over the 24 hour period of 25th December at a specified location – quite often the roof of the Met Office building.
So can anybody predict a White Christmas? Well, weather forecasters can forecast if snow is likely on any given Christmas Day up to five days before the day itself with a pretty good level of accuracy. In statistical terms, a snowflake has fallen on Christmas day 38 times in the last 52 years, a 73% success rate for a White Christmas, so we can expect almost three-quarters of all Christmases to be white if you want to chance your warmly-gloved hand.
But a single snowflake doesn’t really make a White Christmas any more than a single swallow makes a summer, and snow lying on the ground on Christmas Day is much rarer. There’s only been a widespread covering of snow in the UK (40% coverage) four times in the last 51 years. The last full White Christmas was Christmas 2010 and it was a record breaker. There was snow on the ground at 83% of UK weather stations – the highest amount ever recorded. Mind you, there seems to have been more Christmas snow around in very recent years anyway; we also had a white Christmas in 2009 with 13% of Met Office stations recording snow floating to the ground, and 57% reporting it lying deep and crisp and even.
The last full White Christmas was 2010.
Bookmakers Definition Of A White Christmas
Defining what makes a White Christmas is all about fresh snowfalls you see. Payouts on seasonal snow are based on the odds of the white stuff actually coming down, rather than just lying around from previous snowfalls and then turning to slush. In 2010 the snowy weather meant that bookies were inundated with White Christmas bets as the odds were pretty good; Scotland's main cities were odds-on for snow falling, Birmingham and Manchester were evens, and London was a 5/4 against. It was a bookies snowy nightmare with many expecting a million pound payout to happen, and for a while it looked as though all his Christmases had come at once for one lucky punter.
Graphic designer, Cliff Bryant woke on Christmas morning to find that all 24 places he’d betted a White Christmas on had seen a snowfall that morning. Cliff was in line for a £7 million payout. But when he tried to claim his winnings he was told that the cashier who took his accumulator bet shouldn't have accepted it and that it was invalid. Some bookies rules state that accumulators, where you make a series of single bets that are all linked, can't be placed on the chance of a White Christmas and should only be accepted as single bets – which meant instead of millions Cliff’s winnings were just £31.78 pence. Not quite the gold, frankincense and myrrh that Cliff was expecting.
Odds For A White Christmas
So what’s the chance of a White Christmas this year? Well the berries have been plentiful on the trees, the swallows flew south early, and frosts were followed by torrential rain in November. Even the slugs, which vanished earlier than usual from our gardens, seem to indicate that this winter could be colder than normal and the chances of a White Christmas high. But who really knows?
So, if you fancy a flutter on whether a flurry of snowflakes will flutter to the ground this Christmas Day the bookies are waiting to hear from you. In London a NO to a White Christmas will fetch a price of 1/6 and a YES is currently is 4/1. Birmingham, which generally has a higher chance of snow than London, is around the same price and Glasgow and Edinburgh come in at 5/2. You can normally find the lastest odds under the tab/link ‘Specials' or ‘Novelty' on a bookmakers website. You can Click Here To Bet With Paddy Power (£20 Bonus Bet)
At least Santa is pretty much guaranteed a White Christmas up at the North Pole, but as for the rest of us… well, perhaps we’ll have to keep dreaming.
Terms and Conditions for Snow on Christmas Day bets vary from bookmaker to bookmaker – please check terms before your placing a bet. Odds stated on this page are correct at time of publishing.