This is me on Winter. Just say No. (Ottawa, November 2015)
This is me on Winter. Just say No. (Ottawa, November 2015)

In most of the Northern hemisphere, winter is intrinsically linked to the holiday season. Hollywood said so: flurries fall gracefully in suburbia as the happy WASP family opens presents and wraps up a fancy meal. Kids run up to the window, marvel at the lovely scenery and parents kiss lovingly in the background. Winter is just the perfect setting for a perfect night.

But in Canada, the first Santa Claus on display or Christmas gift sets don’t mean it’s winter yet—marketers start putting up lights and seasonal offers earlier and earlier every year, and we tend to cling to the last bits of Indian Summer. Yes, it’s denial, but if it’s 15°C, may as well wear shorts, right? Besides, in Canada, winter doesn’t magically go away a few weeks after unwrapping presents. While other countries experience something called “spring”, we are still shovelling fucking snow.

Yes, winter is a unique feature of Canada, and it brings up feelings you thought you had forgotten after summer and fall. It’s not “just” winter… it’s a way of life.

So, it is winter yet? Well, here is a handy checklist to determine how screwed we are… ahem, I mean to find out.

  • Ice-cold water comes out of the pipes. As much as you hate wasting water, you have to let it run for a minute or so to reach an acceptable temperature when brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
  • Your muscles are tight, especially your shoulders because you constantly brace against the cold wind.
  • Even the most hardcore Canadians don’t wear shorts. Okay, maybe just to run from the car to the supermarket.
  • Watch out where you step! There are patches of ice on unsalted streets.
  • You shiver when you get out from under the blanket in the morning when you step out of the shower and when you go to bed at night (and sleeping naked isn’t a tempting option anymore).
  • Gloves are no longer a tribute to Michael Jackson but the best way to still have ten fingers attached at the end of the winter. And you own several pairs because like socks, they tend to mysteriously lose their mate.
  • You watch the weather channel, sigh and plan accordingly.
  • Smoke comes out of manholes. Meanwhile, smokers shiver outside.
  • You wait for hours at the mechanic to get new winter tires. Everybody had the same idea. The nerve of these people! Couldn’t they have switched to winter tires earlier, like in July or something?
  • You swear off iced drinks and enjoy a comforting hot-something beverage. See you next summer, Frappucino and Iced Capp!
  • You step inside random stores just to warm up. Yes, of course, Brenda, I will let you know if I need anything. I’m just, ahem… browsing.
  • You trade light salads for hot soups and grilled veggies for hearty stews. Food cools off much faster too, so you eat while it’s very hot.
  • Dozens of telemarketers remind you daily that they can check your furnace and blah blah blah home energy audit, blah blah blah government energy-saving rebates.
  • Runny nose. Tissues. Rinse and repeat every time you step out in the cold. No, you’re not sick, just dealing with low temperatures your body wasn’t built to deal with.
  • Your dry skin craves relief and you buy the most moisturizing lotions you can find. You carry a tube of hand cream with you as well as lip balm. Don’t even try to wax unless you want to end up looking like Freddy Krueger.
  • The air smells of wood smoke, holiday foods like cinnamon or chocolate, and pine needles.
  • You constantly curse the weather while praising the beauty of a winter sunset (crisp colours and clear sky) or snowy scenery (lovely until you have to shovel your way out).
  • You don’t casually stroll, you speed from point A to point B.
  • Coffee shops are crowded because of course, there is no longer additional seating on the terrace.
  • You look at your shorts and dresses in the closet and marvel at the fact it was once hot enough to go outside wearing them.

Anything to add to the “checklist”?

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  1. Gagan December 2, 2015 at 8:42 am


    It might just snow a little this week (you do know I am still grinning)

    1. Zhu December 2, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      … and I’m crying…

  2. Chiruza Canadiense December 2, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Well, I can tell you for a fact it doesn’t have to be winter to curse the weather.

    When I went to Montréal for 3 weeks, half of those days it rained, and rained, and rained….it was supposed to be spring, so I didn’t bring with me a lot of winter clothes. Oh, did I mention I froze my butt off ?

    Had never, never, EVER felt that cold in my life before. I would have killed for a hot Tim Hortons latte.

    My conclusion so far, having lived in Canada for only 3 weeks, is that the weather in that country sucks. Too hot and too humid in summer, too rainy in spring, too cold in winter….it’s the price to pay for personal security, stability, oportunities….you name it.

    1. Zhu December 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      Oh, you were mistaken, there is no spring in Canada! 😆 Rain is awful, especially when you are somewhere short term.

    2. Martin Penwald December 2, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      There are four seasons in Canada : Winter, more winter, late winter, and summer (for a couple of weeks only).

      1. Zhu December 3, 2015 at 1:49 pm

        Ah, it’s not that bad! We do have really nice summer and fall seasons in Ontario.

  3. Holly December 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    I am so with you on the hatred for winter, it is definitely my least favourite season. I am so thankful that we haven’t hit full on winter yet – I can deal with this weather. What is it like up there?

    1. Zhu December 3, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Same as you probably, still fairly mild… for Canada.

  4. Martin Penwald December 2, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    It looks that this winter will be warmer than usual and with less snow.

    About tires : it seems more dangerous to drive with winter tire in summer than with standard 4-seasons tires in winter (I haven’t try it), it would be a bad idea to put winter tire in July. With climate changes, maybe in a few years, we will have to put winter tires in July.

    I still sleep with only my underpants, bare chest, because I don’t like wearing a top while sleeping. But I don’t have heat problem (except that the thermostat is not very sensitive, so even at the lowest settings, it gives hot air, and I end open slightly a window, even by -15°).

    You forgot, in 21 : Snow storm.
    And in 22 : Blowing snow.
    And in 23 : Blizzard (with snow).
    And in 24 : Ice (and snow) storm.
    And in 25 : more snow.

    1. Zhu December 3, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      I’ll take a warmer winter after last year’s shit. For sleeping, I’m the opposite, I hate not wearing a top but I go bare legs. Mind you, I use a blanket even in the summer, not because I’m cold but because it’s comforting.

  5. Lynn December 3, 2015 at 7:55 am

    “You look at your shorts and dresses in the closet and mar­vel at the fact it was once hot enough to go out­side wear­ing them.” Yes! This! It’s so weird to me how, in the middle of winter, it just seems endless and like there never was a summer, nor will there ever be again. I often try, in February, to imagine the joy of skipping out the door doing nothing more than slipping on flip flops and I literally cannot do it. It’s like the memory of sun and warmth is just gone. GAH.

    1. Zhu December 3, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      It’s a weird feeling, isn’t it! These clothes feel… wrong. Yet you were wearing them just weeks ago.

  6. Christiane December 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    You know it is winter when Starbucks start serving holiday drinks lol !
    I completely agree about the gloves. I always have them on me except when I do a quick grocery run !

    1. Zhu December 8, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Ah, but they start Christmas drinks way too early I find.


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