Nick Palacio could see his breath with every word he spoke. He was bundled up with a heavy sweater, a scarf and a hat. And he was still cold.
In yesterday's unseasonably warm temperatures, he sought out a place that seemed appropriate for the first full official day of winter -- an indoor ice rink.
After coming off the ice in the below-freezing temperatures of the Columbia Ice Rink, Nick, 12, of Ellicott City, proclaimed his disgust about the unwinterlike conditions outside.
"This weather is pitiful," he said. "I wish I could be ice-skating outside on a pond somewhere."
People throughout Maryland had varying opinions about yesterday's weather, but whether they liked it or not, most agreed it was unusual. It rained on and off in most parts of the Baltimore region, with occasional clearing, and some areas were struck by a fog that didn't clear until early afternoon.
Those who did not have last-minute shopping to do, and were not searching for frosty surroundings, took advantage of the mild temperatures -- 60 degrees or more in most of the state.
At the Rocky Gorge Batting Cage near Burtonsville, in Montgomery County, Tom Chroniger of College Park and Carol Lehman of Hyattsville found themselves spending a Dec. 22 in a way they had never spent it before -- swinging at baseballs.
"I've never been here at this time of the year," Mr. Chroniger said. "It just doesn't seem like Christmas with this weather. But this is a chance to get outside and enjoy it."
The Sundance Car Wash in Odenton was a busy place, as people welcomed the chance to give their machines a holiday sparkle. "This weather is beautiful," said Larry Burkey of Violetville. "As far as I'm concerned, it can stay like this all year long."
While cleaning her car, Stacey Washington of Glen Burnie felt no longing for typical December weather. "I don't miss the snow, not at all," she said. "But it doesn't feel like Christmas, though."
Down the road, at the Odenton Florist, Rudy Romanelli of Brandywine did his best to help people get the Christmas feeling, standing outside and waving at motorists in his Santa Claus suit. "It was pretty comfortable out there today, except for the beard, which got a little warm," he said. "I'm not looking forward to Monday, though."
Tomorrow, temperatures are expected to be very winterlike, in the mid-30s. Despite that, warm temperatures have been the norm, not the exception, this season. "It looks like this is going to be the warmest year on record," Kenneth W. Shaver of the National Weather Service said yesterday.
Yesterday's high reached 63 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Mr. Shaver said --two degrees shy of the 1984 airport record. The temperature downtown was 60 degrees, 10 less than the Baltimore record set in 1889, he said. He said temperatures last week were about 15 to 20 degrees above normal.
The warm air combined with a cool ground temperature and resulted in the fog that covered much of the area. "The humidity was running nearly 100 percent all night long," Mr. Shaver said. "So the air was moist to begin with, and as it cooled off, it became fog."
For many people, the weather was not a major concern, as shoppers swamped stores for the last weekend of shopping before Christmas.
Robert and Louise McElligott of Canton came down to Harborplace in Baltimore to pick up a specially ordered gift. The mild temperature was an added bonus. "We left our coats in the car," Mrs. McElligott said.
Claire Alpert of Columbia stood in line with her two daughters, Nicole, 7, and Cirrus, 11, as Nicole waited to see Santa Claus at The Mall in Columbia.
Mrs. Alpert said she had a day of baking ahead of her. She called the weather "crazy" but said she believed a lot of people have great expectations of Christmas-time weather. "I think everyone tries to idealize what they think Christmas should be," she said.
Nicole said she was going to ask for a chalkboard and chalk.