Ways to enjoy Canada’s coldest season.
The days may be cold and short on sunshine, but that doesn’t need to stop hearty Canadians from embracing the unique experiences that winter offers. Not everyone is an outdoor enthusiast eager to go snowshoeing, ice fishing or dog sledding, but there are lots of ways to enjoy the sub-zero season.
Winter fun, Canadian-style
Although skiing and snowboarding are popular activities, there’s no need to visit expensive resorts to enjoy these chilly months. There are many options for affordable frosty fun in your own neighbourhood. Whether it’s the local arena, a frozen pond or a carefully tended backyard rink, lacing up the skates and hitting the ice provides hours of amusement, especially if you get a good old hockey game going. Sledding, building forts and snowball fights are other great ways to create fantastic family memories. Have you tapped into your inner Picasso lately? Add food colouring to water in a spray bottle and decorate your yard with snow paint.
Cross-country skiing and winter hiking provide the perfect opportunity to put a new twist on the classic picnic. Fill a backpack with thermoses of hot chocolate and chili, bring along a camera and get to know the gorgeous winter landscape of your favourite parks and trails. Or perhaps a romantic evening stroll in search of the northern lights is more up your alley.
Books, ice cream and tacos
Northerners have many unique ways of keeping the winter blues at bay. Russians are known for indulging in their love of ice cream during the frigid season. Iceland’s “Christmas Book Flood” or Jolabokaflod results from the tradition of giving books to one another on Christmas Eve and then spending that night reading. In Norway, fredagskos (Friday coziness) is the following Friday evening ritual: enjoying a taco dinner and retiring to the sofa to watch TV while feasting on potato chips and an assortment of candy until you fall asleep.
Regardless of your choice of winter fun, it’s always comforting to curl up beside a crackling fire with some hot cocoa. In fact, Canadians could learn from the Scandinavians, who have taken coziness to a whole new snuggled-up level, evoking a sense of intimacy, togetherness and inner warmth. Swedish mys is similar to the Danish hygge, which loosely translates to “cozy.” The practice of hygge is to light candles, snuggle under blankets, drink hot beverages and enjoy one another’s company. And they are on to something: it’s worth noting that Scandinavians have some of the highest happiness rates in the world.
If these suggestions aren’t enough to warm your toes, why not consider getting into some hot water (literally)? The Canadian Rockies have some of the best natural hot springs in the world, but if that’s out of your neighbourhood, plenty of local spas offer hot tubs, thermal wraps and other warming options. Staying active and enjoying the outdoors is a great way to combat the dreaded seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Fresh air and exercise can help improve health, as well as being a great mood booster. 
With the right mindset and proper attire, you can relish the pleasures of winter and embrace the season. As the Norwegians say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” 
Most Canadian cities offer winter celebrations of some kind. Here are some of the more notable ones:
- Winter Festival of Lights has most of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and its magnificent waterfall illuminated from November until the end of January.
- The Ironman, Canada’s largest outdoor curling bonspiel, sees players hurl granite rocks across the frozen Red River at The Forks in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
- Quebec Winter Carnival (known as Carnaval) includes night parades, snow sculptures and festival mascot Bonhomme’s magnificent ice palace. It takes place in Quebec City every year.
- Winterlude, in Canada’s Capital Region, consists of ice skating, ice sculptures and live music shows along the frozen Rideau Canal.
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