It’s hard for us in the Southern Hemisphere to picture a festival in the dead of a below-freezing winter. After all, most of our greatest festivals are held in the summer as we make use of the long nights and stupidly warm weather. From the canvas of our poolside hammocks, it’s impossible to imagine anything sweeter.
But if we look to our friendly Northern counterparts, we’ll see that there’s a benefit to actually making the most of the other extreme. Taking place in the northern hemisphere’s cooler period (January to April), Canada’s winter festivals prove that there’s still fun to be had in the shadow of the summer months. This may come as a shock, but we’re declaring that festivals in the snow are totally better than festivals in the sun. Here’s why:
You don’t have to shred
You don’t have to shred. I know I already titled this section saying that, but I truly believe it’s the single most important benefit of partying in the snow. You know how summer festivals are great but you end up overindulging in $12 beers so you can stop worrying about how your legs look in those shorts you spent too long trying to find? At Igloofest, an outdoor EDM festival currently on in the Old Port of Montreal, more is more. We’re talking ear muffs, blanket scarves, ‘80s ski gear, snow goggles and Maple Leaf mittens. No longer does EDM have to be synonymous with sweaty muscles. Sure, you may have them but they don’t show through a Canada Goose. In fact, if you take your shirt off you’ll run the risk of frostbite. So there.
You can ice skate around (probably)
I mean, your skating proficiency is your own business, but you’ve definitely got the opportunity to and it’s never too late to learn! Besides, walking is for chumps. Also, Ottawa’s Winterlude festival, kicking off on January 29, has the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink, so that’s something you just can’t refuse. The Rideau Canal runs through the city centre and is frozen and buffed each winter for skaters, both learning and learned.
Canadian winters in general have way more ice rinks for you to learn (read: trip and fall) on, so there’s heaps of places to give it a go. You may as well say a sweet farewell to the feeling in your butt now, though.
You have a selection of delicious seasonal treats
Have you ever heard of maple taffy? Also known as tire d’erable for the Quebecoise, or ‘sugar on snow’ for the Yanks south of the border? No? Well it’s basically boiling maple sap that turns to toffee when it’s laid out on the snow. Then you roll it up with a paddle pop stick and devour it. It’s confusingly warm and icy and maddeningly delicious. As are beaver tails, a holy concoction of flattened fried dough, cinnamon and icing that rivals its only true opponent: the doughnut.
All Canadian winter festivals, including Quebec City’s winter carnival (Carnaval de Quebec) and Winnipeg’s Festival du Voyageur, have maple taffy and beaver tail stalls galore. And of course, poutine. But you should definitely know about that special magic by now.
You can enter weird competitions
If you want to go to a place that really knows how to winter fest, Whitehorse in Yukon has got to be your place. Firstly, the place knows cold. Secondly, they know how to run a sweet competition. I mean, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous has a hair freezing contest. If that’s not making the best out of a bad weather situation, I simply don’t know what is. You can also patricipate in lip synching and wood chopping competitions, and compete for the title of ‘Sourdough Sam’ or ‘Yukon Rendezvous Queen’ – which one can only assume are male and female beauty pageants (they are).
You’ll experience IRL magic
Whether you’re toboganning down an icy slope or cradling your Jägerbomb in a dance pit, the atmosphere just becomes next-level magical when the snow falls. That’s the kind of natural wonder no other seasonal festival can beat. Catching falling snow on your tongue with sweet tunes in your ears and maple taffy in your mittens. There’s nothing quite like it. And it sure as hell beats Australian summer rain.
(Lead image: Miguel Legault/Igloofest Facebook)
Josephine is a staff writer at Junkee Media. You can find her words on AWOL, The Cusp, food she bagsed in the fridge.