I have to confess a very un-Canadian secret. I hate winter! Except for Christmas, my favourite time of year. But after that, I am not a fan of winter, and those who claim to like it are suspect. I consider them delusional. What’s so great about being cold, shovelling snow, scraping windshields, or bundling up in parka, mukluks, hat and mittens just to get the newspaper from the end of the driveway?
I have tried—really tried—to embrace this Canadian cultural experience, for that is what winter has become. I even asked Santa for cross-country skis and he dutifully delivered them, undoubtedly giggling like a demented elf. I live in the country surrounded by rolling hills, open fields and wooded areas traversed by trails. In winter it’s all very pretty cloaked in snow—but it’s best viewed from indoors next to a cosy fire! I have tried to find joy in sliding across the snow in the silence of a sunny winter afternoon—shoosh, shoosh, shoosh. It’s peaceful and calm. And cold. And painful. That part is from falling, not from skiing. And then it’s all sweaty and gross when you struggle to get up. On those rare days when I complete a run without falling I return triumphant, with rosy cheeks and terminal hat hair.
However, I do indulge in the very Canadian pastime of expressing Canadian hardiness. As Richard Adams wrote in Watership Down, “Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it.” So true! Especially when I call family or friends in Vancouver or overseas. “It’s 10 above and raining? You poor thing! You should see it here. Minus 30, snowing, winds gusting to 60.” Take that!
Winter affects every aspect of life in Canada for a significant part of the year. The official dates for winter are December 21 until March 21 (give or take a day), but for most of us it’s more like October through April—that’s half the year, if you’re counting! It’s no wonder Canada is associated with winter, and that so much of our identity is connected with it. Just ask anyone about the coldest place in Canada; they’re sure to have a quick answer. When I’ve lived in countries with milder winters I have not missed snow or cold one bit. Yes, I admit to being something of a failure as a Canadian. The best thing I can say about winter, is that it’s a fine time to take a tropical vacation!