Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Post: I'd Rather Burn in Hell than Freeze There


When I asked Camille at Archives of Our Lives to write a post on Christmas in Canada, I didn't expect to get something even close to this entertaining, but I should have, because, I mean, it's Camille. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you'll check out Archives 'cause it's one of my favorite non-bookish blogs to read!

Hello, I Heart Monster readers! My name is Camille, and I'll be commandeering this website today, if that's all right with you. I normally write on my own blog, Archives of Our Lives, but I have been sorrily neglectful over the past few weeks on account of a hellacious time in my life known as Finals Week---I am an English major in college, and this time of the semester is never very joyful for me. Honestly, I am surprised I haven't been arrested by the blogging police, or Reader Protection Services for my horrible behaviour lately. I deserve to go to Blogging Hell.

Luckily, the good people at have offered me salvation for my trespasses. They decided that it was time I whip myself back into shape, and as motivation, they have asked me to guest post here today. I'm delighted to do so, because, as I said, I am an English major in college, and I hope someday, somewhere, somehow, to get a gig as a paid professional writer in real life. Who knows...maybe even...a novel? I know, every college English major secretly hopes the same thing for her future, and maybe it's presumptuous, but what can I say? A girl's gotta dream. Hopefully I Heart Monster will feature my novel when it is finally published; it can't hurt to get my foot in the door now, though, right? I am all about planning for the future, not burning my bridges, being prepared...I was an excellent Girl Scout (though it didn't hurt that I could eat Samoas by the boxful).


I live in Canada. I have not always lived in Canada---I used to live in the desert of central Arizona. But now I live in Canada. As far as I can tell, there are not any huge differences between Canadians and Americans; a lot of people like to say that Canadians are much more polite than Americans, but I have met some rude Canadians and some extremely gracious Americans---I think it just depends on how people are raised, in spite of their national identities. I do my best not to stereotype people if I can help it---I'm an equal opportunity blogger.

However, just because I don't believe in common Canadian myths, that doesn't mean there aren't some differences between Canada and America...especially at Christmas time.

First of all, Canadians like to claim Santa Claus as their own citizen---they do "own" the North Pole, after all. They consider him as quite their own, in fact. One amazing Christmas tradition up here is that Canadian children can send their letters to Santa Claus (addressed to: Santa Claus at North Pole, postal code "HOH OHO" [Canadian postal codes are in letter-number-letter number-letter-number format, so of course Santa's code should read "ho ho ho"]), and they will receive a personalized letter back, in the language the letter was received (including Braille!). Don't believe me? Here's proof.

I can't wait to try it. Maybe next year.

Aside from that, though, I have not noticed any striking differences between Canadian and American Christmas celebrations. They all consist of nice family dinners, gift exchanges, amazing after-holiday sales (Boxing Day, on December 26th, is equivalent to Black Friday in the States), and time-and-a-half paycheques.

However, even though Christmas is not hugely different up here, there are enormous differences between winter in Canada and winter in the arid desert of Arizona.

Talk about climate shock...

Some of you may be reading from colder areas of the States, like, I don't know, Wisconsin, so this may not come as a big surprise to you. But for you lucky dogs in Phoenix, San Diego, Miami, and El Paso, Texas, I have compiled a list to show you just what you are missing by not residing as Santa Claus's next-door neighbor.

The Five Senses of Winter in Canada:

1. Sight: This time of year, everything in Canada loses all pigment---humans included---and turns completely white. Don't believe me? Here's a picture of the view outside my kitchen window, taken just moments ago:

Picture 4

No joke.

2. Touch: Everything I touch in Canada during the winter is freezing, freezing cold. Sub-freezing, even. Numbingly cold, even. I'm not kidding; you think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Here is a screen shot from last week's cold front, just to prove it:

Picture 1

Yes, you saw that right. Minus thirty five degrees, but minus fifty five with the wind chill. Honestly, when it gets worse than minus twenty, it all feels the same: numb. In Arizona, one might wear gloves to keep one's hands from frying to the steering wheel in the blistering heat; in Canada, it's just the opposite.

3. Smell: Go stick your head in the kitchen freezer, and you'll know what Canada smells like in the winter. It smells freezer burned.

4. Taste: I will admit that the ice-age temperatures up here make for some delicious comfort food. I mean, in Arizona, I never remember it getting cold enough to actually warrant a nice cup of hot cocoa---sure, I would try to choke it down, but it always seemed slightly ironic to cradle a steaming cup of cocoa while blasting the air conditioner and traipsing around in flip-flops. Up here, though? Cocoa is not only warranted, but it is pretty much necessary. Cocoa, cider, hot pumpkin soup, stroganoff, poutine, anything piping hot that will stick to the ribs---it'll do. And it is delicious.

5. Sound: The sound of Canada is, admittedly, completely peaceful and serene. When there is a foot-deep blanket of snow covering noisy streets and sidewalks, it almost feels surreal to be walking around in the quietude of it all. I have never experienced anything more peaceful than when I have donned my winter coat, scarves, gloves, and hat, and simply...gone for a winter walk. It is beautiful. It is calming. It is the definition of "peace on earth."

...that is, until the silence is interrupted by the grating, screeching clamor of cars slipping on slick roads and colliding with each other, with guard rails, with deer, with moose, with Santa Clause himself (nobody's safe). I have been involved in one such accident myself, and witnessed countless others by the cars just in front of me on the road. It is a horribly helpless feeling, to be stuck behind the wheel of an out-of-control car on ice.

When that happens, I really wish I was living back in Arizona. At least in Phoenix, if it gets too hot, the tires will only melt to the asphalt---that would simply be sticky and slow me down, not catapult me into oncoming semi trucks.

I guess that, given a choice between the two, I would pick burning in Hell as opposed to freezing there.

I'll have to make sure Satan gets the memo.

Just in case.

Thanks Camille! I thought visiting Wyoming in the winter was rough, but I now know I don't even want to visit Saskatchewan {edit: ALBERTA!} in the winter, ever. Check out Canada on Wikipedia or find out more in its CIA Factfile.


La Coccinelle said...

To be fair, this doesn't apply to all of Canada. We're not even going to have a white Christmas here on the west coast. Such generalizations about Canada are about as silly as talking about "American weather"... and referring to California and New York.

But yeah, we do claim Santa Claus. I think every Canadian kid knows Santa's address. I remember writing to him many times. You do get a letter back. Santa's got the system down to a science; he must have some very organized elves.

Bella said...

That's awesome. When I saw the -35c I wondered if it was Saskatchewan and I was right! I live in Saskatchewan and can confirm its all white and cold, but beautiful :)

Cleverly Inked said...

That is awesome, Really braille. That is such a great thing!!

Camille said...

La Coccinelle---You are so right. I don't like generalizations and I should have avoided them. Edited to add: not Canadian winter, but Southern Alberta winter.

celi.a said...

Awesome. Post.

RatalieNose said...

This made my day.