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Curious About Winter in Ottawa? This is What it Looks Like in December

Every call to my French family starts with a weather update. Like CEOs at a board meeting, they want metrics.

“It is cold?”


“It’s cold here too.”


“Yup, close to 0⁰C.”

Let me laugh in Canadian.

“It’s -15⁰C today.”

“How can it be so cold already? How much snow has fallen so far? There’s snow, right?”


Okay, it’s not a given—we had a “green Christmas” in 2006, 2014 and 2015 and newspapers were interviewing people in Ottawa to see how they were “coping with the non-traditional weather.”

It’s hard to describe our Canadian winters.

Crisp blue sky and starry nights when it’s very, very cold. Those gloomy days when snowflakes dance in the wind and you realize 15 centimetres of snow have fallen by the evening. The desperate efforts to shield from the biting wind. These magical 4:30 p.m. sunsets with vivid colours. The unusually bright nights when snow reflects the light that would normally just be absorbed by the ground. Those strange mornings, especially early in the season, when you wake up to a city blanketed by an overnight snowfall—wait, I would have sworn there was grass here yesterday, wasn’t it? Warmer days when snow turns into slush, colder days when melted snow turns back to ice. People all bundled up walking as fast as possible and looking for a cozy shelter—their home at the end of the day or just a coffee shop on the way, hell, even the bus will do. Gloves, hats, and scarves piled up by the door, a wet snowsuit dangling from the doorknob, the biggest collection of winter boots below all “please take off your shoes” signs. The softness of fresh snow under your feet, the crunchy road salt, the slippery patches of black ice, and the greyish snowbanks that are always higher than they seem.

Yeah, you should come over to experience it once in your life. It’s a special atmosphere when we slowly descend into colder, shorter days.

All week long, I’ve been taking photos of a few typical December scenes around Ottawa with my cellphone—yes, freezing my fingers off for you guys. This is what the city looks like right now, keeping in mind we haven’t faced severe winter weather yet and that temperatures are fairly normal for the season (- 13⁰C today).

Many of these photos are depicting Common Canadian Winter Problems.


Experimental Farm Pathway, Ottawa, December 2018
Our neighbourhood on a snowy day, Ottawa, December 2018
Lost glove, Ottawa, December 2018
Lost glove, Ottawa, December 2018
Lost glove on a mailbox, Ottawa, December 2018
Lost scarf dangling from a tee branch, Little Italy, Ottawa, December 2018
Outdoor recess in a school in Ottawa (it was -15C that day…), December 2018
Cracked asphalt and snow, Clyde Avenue, Ottawa, December 2018
Snowman, Clyde Avenue, Ottawa, December 2018
Lost hubcap on Carling Road (often voted “Ottawa’s worst road”), December 2018
Christmas (??!) decorations in our neighbourhood, Ottawa, December 2018
Winter boots at the gym, Ottawa, December 2018
Outdoor winter gear for sale at MEC, a local co-op, Ottawa, December 2018
Christmas decoration and piles of deicing salt bags in front of a supermarket, Ottawa, December 2018
Winter-themed tableware at the supermarket, Ottawa, December 2018
Winter-themed tableware at the supermarket, Ottawa, December 2018
Christmas ornaments at the supermarket, Ottawa, December 2018
Snow-covered classic American car, Ottawa, December 2018
Maple syrup and Christmas trees for sale by the Dairy Queen (closed for the season), Ottawa, December 2018

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