Why snow surprises Canadians

Every year Canadians are surprised by the arrival of snow. You would think that if ever there was a country that should not be surprised by snow, it would be Canada. But it does. The snow falls and the phone calls are made. The emails goes out.

“OMG! It’s snowing!

The obvious reply would be, “Of course it’s snowing. It’s Canada.” Instead, the replies are more like, “Tell me you’re kidding! OMG! I heard it’s going to snow here in two days!”

I’ve always been puzzled by the surprise Canadians express at the arrival of the first snow. I think I have it figured out now, though.

We’re surprised by snow because here, more than most countries, our seasons are distinct and rich. If we’re surprised by snow it’s only because we’ve been seduced and made stupid by summer. We get a bit anxious by fall because it triggers something in our memory by its blaze of autumnal colour. Even so, we don’t really expect snow because fall is so colourful.

Colour is one of the keys to understanding our surprise.

We don’t simply move from warm temperatures and flowers to snow and ice. We move from a Technicolor, Cinemascope world of sound to a monochromatic, black and white world of silence. The contrast is as great as any we can image. Winter is a silent film starring Mary Pickford. Summer is Avatar and 3D.

It’s one of the best things about Canada but it’s also one of the hardest to wrap your head around. “It’s seems like just a week ago I was cutting the lawn. Now I’m shovelling snow.”

Any day now, it will snow. When it does, we will all be astonished.

The snow comes every year; every year we are surprised.

That’s what living in Canada is like.