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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about -- Jack Frost and other wintry mythological beings.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

(Music up and under: "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire")

CURWOOD: December twenty-second marks the official start of winter, with the arrival of the solstice. And while some seasonal figures, such as Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer steal the show this time of year, another mythological character is worth recognizing. His name: Jack Frost. The personification of icy weather, Jack Frost is said to be responsible for painting designs on leaves and window glass. People say they can see scenes that resemble miniature mountain ranges and thick forests in the intricate patterns of the frosty artwork.

Today, we think of Jack Frost as an elfin being, but he may have originated as a very large figure in Norse folklore. The frost giant was believed to create glaciers and ice caps and to cause avalanches. Other cultures have their own mythological wintry beings. In Russia it's the Snow Maiden and Father Frost, who forges frost by binding water and earth together with heavy chains. In Germany, it's said that snow is caused by an old woman shaking out her white feather bed. But as far as we can ascertain, Jack Frost is the only wintry creature known to take a nip at your nose. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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