#171 Canadians can laugh at the cold

By Cathryn Wellner / November 1, 2011

Fresh snow in the Rotary Marsh, about as deep as it ever gets in Kelowna

Until I moved to Canada in 1990, I figured that chunk of geography on the globe was just a colder U.S. I was wrong, of course, but that’s another story. Cold is real. Cold is Canadian. Cold is something we brag about north of the 49th parallel.

I was in the downtown Kelowna Shopper’s Drug Mart with a friend yesterday. We were chit chatting with the cashier about the drop in temperatures. A young fellow just beyond us chimed in with a hurrah! for winter.

My friend and I agreed the blustery fall day we were out walking in was enough winter for us. Not being winter sports enthusiasts, we don’t greet ice and snow with quite the same enthusiasm as the young man ahead of us.

Still, snow is very Canadian, and it is beautiful as well as treacherous. I’ve watched Northern Lights dance on snow. I’ve laid the first tracks on a snowy landscape and marveled at the quiet of deep snow.

So when I heard about the Long John Index Service of Canada I laughed out loud. This being officially a bilingual country, the French title is Le service des liste des caleçons du Canada. The site is exactly what the title implies, a place to find out if it’s Long John weather yet.

For those of you who live in tropical climes or too far south of the 49th parallel to have experienced Real Cold, Long Johns are long underwear. They can be half versions, from waist to ankle. They can be whole versions, which offer some inhibitory challenges when certain bodily functions insist on being attended to while you’re out cross-country skiing or snowshoeing or feeding the cows. Whatever their configuration, Long Johns are an insurance policy against frostbite.

Cold is also the time for toques or tuques (pronounced “tooooks”), those knitted head pieces otherwise known as ski hats or wool caps, often topped with some sort of woolly tassel. What others might call “hat head”, the Long John Service Index calls “toque hair”, with guidelines as to when it is acceptable to show up for work or other duties looking as if you’ve just climbed out of bed.

You get the picture. In a weather-challenged country like Canada making peace with winter means learning how to laugh at it. The Long John Index is crazy and quirky and funny. As days shorten and snow time approaches, it gives me hope that humor/humour will once again carry me through the cold time and into the promise of spring.


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