Christmas Sales – a Climatic-Origin Version.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, somewhere in London – quite possibly in the British Museum – I recall beholding a painting called something like ‘The Market on the Thames’. ‘Whoah!’ I thought to myself, naturally. The River Thames completely freezing over to the extent that not only could you walk around on its surface, but also have a large winter marketplace on it too?! Crikey, as they say in London.

I’m not sure this was the painting I saw; it could have been this, or even this one.

Straight away this got me thinking – about man-made global warming in particular…

So, the Thames hasn’t frozen over for more than 200 years. This means that the full force of the Industrial Revolution didn’t make the climate any warmer at all – since the Industrial Revolution’s full force was felt around the same time as when the Thames would freeze over (it was so cold around then (16th to 19th centuries) they’ve even called the period the Little Ice Age).

Ok, that could be countered with: ‘it hasn’t frozen over for 200 years precisely because of the man-made global warming caused by the Industrial Revolution!’ Hmmm. Ok folks, over to you. Your thoughts? :).

I kept on thinking about the Thames freezing over. Now, legally, a river doesn’t count as ‘territory’ in a city it may run through. One consequence of this is that any business conducted thereon isn’t obliged to pay any taxes to the city’s coffers. That is, any goods sold on a river are sold for a lot less than the norm, and so demand therefor goes up. And every year, somewhere around the middle of December, the whole of London would anticipate freezing weather, trying to guess if the Thames would freeze over that year (it didn’t happen all that often) so everyone would be able to get good discounts at the ice fair.

Sound familiar?

It’s been more than two centuries since the last ‘frost fair’. The Thames hasn’t frozen over in that time and isn’t planning to. The frost fair is a distant memory mostly long forgotten. But (post-) Christmas sales have remained!

So how do you like that as a theory on the origin of Christmas sales? Maybe I’m wrong and they came about due to a different reason. Nevertheless, I do like the ice hypothesis. Again, what do you, dear readers, think?

1. Btw, the tradition of having markets on a frozen-over river may not have necessarily first appeared in London. They could have appeared in any other (suitably cold) large European city, with the idea spreading to other cities around the world.

2. One fact in favor of this hypothesis is the one whereby it wasn’t just folks taking winter strolls on the ice, but specifically having a market on it. What would have encouraged traders to leave the warmth of their workshops and stores and brave the cold and wind all day? Yep – super profits based on zero taxes and high seasonal demand.

3. I wonder… Did the Thames freeze solid right down to the riverbed? Even though its tide goes up and down by meters? I don’t know. And what was the size of the ice dam at the mouth of the river?

4. In closing, here‘s an interesting article on the frost fairs.

That’s all for today folks. More momentous musings from moi, tomorrow!…

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