Canadian Winter - It's Value and Charm
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
There is a certain charm in the bright, crisp and frosty air of winter, with its sparkling sunshine, that makes it altogether one of the most pleasant seasons of the year. The scenery of winter, though to some extent monotonous, is nevertheless charming and novel. Winter is also the season particularly devoted to the cultivation of the social and literary instincts, and, perhaps, nowhere more so than in Canada ; all classes improve it and profit by it in this way. The young find abundant amusement in the winter games so popular and characteristic in this country, such as sleighing, skating, tobogganing, snowshoeing and many other sports. The long evenings give ample opportunity to the enjoying of social amenities in both city and country. Self-culture and general improvement are given an impulse in the winter season which has resulted in the making of careers which could not possibly have been made in other countries.
" Canada really lives its life and assumes its busiest aspect when all the sports that are typical of the country and the people take place, when rich and poor, great and small, hasten out to taste the joys which the winter brings. Our Lady of the Snows,' as Kipling called her, is no offensive term, as some would have it-for it is as our Lady of the Snows, and a pleasant, robust, healthy dame it is—that one's brightest memories of Canada are fixed.
" Here in London we can hardly conceive of the glories of the Canadian tobogganing and sleighing, and of fireworks illuminating the ice carnivals ; for here, with the thermometer at 50 degrees, and the air heavy with smoke and the streets often slippery only with the greasy mud, our winter is a delusion which gives us no joys." *
The winter, contradictory as it may seem, is most conducive to agriculture. Not only is it a season of complete rest to the world of nature, but the influence of frost on the soil acts as a solvent in a manner more complete than any chemical or mechanical appliances could possibly be made to do at any cost. In the spring, when the frost disappears, the ploughed ground is left completely pulverized and friable, and with little preparation is adapted to the reception of seed.
The winter season is conducive In a large degree to the commercial activity and prosperity of the country. The great lumbering interest of the country could not be carried on without a tremendous increase of expenditure if it were not for the kindly aid of frost and snow. Then, and only then, can this work be carried on with despatch and profit to the operator and the country. The frost makes bridges without a cent of cost ; the snow provides the best roads over the roughest of countries; the melting snow of the spring provides force and carries the winter's cut out of the streams from the interior at a minimum of cost and in the shortest space of time. All of this is worth millions to the country annually.
An English observer says: " The roads are alive with sleighs; without this same slippery snow to drag to the distributing centres sleigh load after sleigh load of hay, and wood and grain, pork and eggs and butter and cheese, and drag out again to the farmers from whom this produce came tea, flour, sugar, clothes, oil, furniture and bricks, teaming would be arduous labor indeed. So both farmers and shopkeepers hail the snow, and without it produce would not be exchanged for wares, money would not be circulated—at least, not to the extent that it then does. To the town itself, too, the winter seems to give a fillip. Winter is Canada's season, a back-country Canadian town in winter in its own phrase is ' up and jumping.' "
The Canadian winter is also conducive to health. Probably no country in the world, taking in all its seasons, is so generally healthy. Statistics, I think, show this to be abundantly true, and strange as it may appear, the winter is the most generally healthy of all seasons in this remarkably healthy country.
The death-rate is lower in cold months than in July and August. Twenty times as many persons die from the effects of sunstrokes than from the effects of cold in nearly all the large cities. We have to be careful of our diet in the hot weather, but in winter we can eat what we please and plenty of It.
The Canadian winter has its compensations, and although the cold is a distinguishing feature, it does not prevent thousands of our people living to number as many years as are attained by the oldest in the most favored lands."
It ought to be quite apparent, then, that while Canada, in the larger portion of her area has a winter, so far as mean temperature is concerned, somewhat colder than that of corresponding European-latitudes, that it is not on that account unpleasant, unhealthy or unprofitable. Indeed the winter is a feature of the country that could not be well dispensed with. Moreover, it is prophetic, judging from the past, of a race, in mind and body and moral culture, of the highest type. In this connection we .are reminded of the words of Sir Charles Dilke, who said of Scotland, but with equal application to this country, " The long winters cultivate thrift, energy and forethought, without which civilization would perish, and at the same time give leisure for reading and study. So the Scottish, the Icelanders, the Swedes, and the northern races generally, are much better educated than the Latin and southern races. Scotland," says Dilke, " is blessed with a rigorous climate, while the islands of the southern seas are cursed with the bread-fruit and perpetual summer."