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A man rides a horse-drawn cart during heavy snow fall. (VASILY FEDOSENKO/REUTERS)
A man rides a horse-drawn cart during heavy snow fall. (VASILY FEDOSENKO/REUTERS)

Globe editorial

Global warming, a winter’s tale Add to ...

The holiday season is a time for family, light and tradition. There are those who say it’s overdone, of course, but they might be missing an important point. An elaborate new study shows that cold weather makes us nostalgic, and that nostalgic thoughts warm our bodies. Maybe there’s even more to Christmas than we already know.

The study was published in a journal called Emotion, and the researchers were thorough. They did five separate experiments on a single group of subjects. The tests ranged from having the subjects record their nostalgic thoughts over 30 days and comparing them with the daily temperature, to having them recall either a nostalgic memory or an ordinary event, and then plunge their hands in ice water. The subjects tended to be more nostalgic on colder days, and those with the nostalgic film reel in their heads were able to withstand the icy hand-bath longer.

In another test, the subjects listened to music in order to evoke nostalgia. Those who felt nostalgic tended to also feel warmer. In yet another, they were stuck in one of three rooms that were either cold, comfortable or hot; those in the coldest room felt more nostalgic, while those in the hot room didn’t feel nostalgic at all.

It makes one wonder if ancient winter festivals, including those that helped contribute to the celebration we now know as Christmas, were created partly to fuel our nostalgia. Regardless, science is suggesting that our memories that are the warmest also keep us the warmest. That in turn explains why the world can feel slightly colder after the Christmas tree comes down and the lights are returned to a box in a closest. Hold on to your family traditions, and keep building new ones, because they’ll be there to comfort you in more ways than one, come January.

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