Throughout Away in a Manger, the cold winter weather of Glasgow is emphasised. At the beginning of the story, Amy’s breath is pictured rising
in white clouds intae the bitter night. Sandra and Amy forget about the cold when they see the lights, but for Sandra the magic of Christmas is quickly overshadowed by the homeless people in the square, reminding her that it is still a
freezing cauld night.
Home and family are symbolised by warmth. Amy’s gloved hand in Sandra’s provides
heat seepin through, warmin her, and Sandra in turn warms Amy’s nose with her glove. When she and Amy make their way to the lights, Sandra imagines her home and its enticing:
vision of warmth, a fire, a mug of hot tea
. This suggests that their home together is cosy and safe. Amy describes her granny as being
like a big hot-water bottle, the simile suggesting closeness and warmth.
Sandra is reminded that not everyone has a home and family to which they can return. She feels a:
flake of snow cauld on her cheek
It is possible that Sandra struggles with money and this moment of cold could suggest how easily financial problems can threaten someone's home and comfort.
By giving money to the papergirl who is working in the cold, Sandra is able to soothe her own conscious after dismissing Amy’s idea of helping the homeless man.