Travel anywhere around the world tell someone you’re from Canada and expect them to make some cheeky comment about the subzero temperatures where you live. While for the most part foreigners preconceptions of the country are right, if you come from Victoria British Columbia, which is situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, you really have no idea what Canadian winters are all about. While those westerners are out there enjoying a cup of Joe or a locally crafted brew on a heated outdoor patio in the middle of December, they only make up about 3-4 million of Canada’s total population. The other thirty million are suffering through winter temperatures that range anywhere from just above zero to negative forty at least six months of the year.
I was reminded the other day however from one of the Gallery’s loyal members, who is always a pleasure to chat with, that there is so much more to winter than the cold. She herself is a cross country skier who praised the trails in and around the Sault and said if you can beat it enjoy it.
In fact there is so much to enjoy about the winter season that for hundreds of years people who have inhabited this land have found ways to not only survive the cold winters, but to thrive in them. Sleighing for example, which was a recurring image in the paintings of Cornelius Krieghoff (1815-1872), was not only a means of transportation in nineteenth Century Canada but also a great deal of fun.
Bon Soo, Sault Ste. Marie’s winter carnival, officially opens in just over a week but you can already feel the excitement in the air. Just take a walk down Queen Street and see an image of the carnival’s mascot hanging in every shop window. It is the carnival’s fiftieth anniversary this year, which means that for fifty years Saultites have been snow shoeing, sleighing, building snowmen, playing hockey, jumping in a freezing cold river and warming up with a hot cocoa or something a little stronger – wink. It also means that for at least fifty years the people of Sault Ste. Marie, despite the bone chilling winds, the freezing temperatures and the cars that won’t start have found some reason to celebrate winter in the Canadian North.
Here’s to making the best of it!