I remember my first Canadian winter. I was as enchanted by the snow as I was gobsmacked. It snowed a few times during my time in England; the first I remember was on a weekend and we had snowball fights, the second was a Wednesday where I got to skip school and have a Harry Potter marathon. Both times, we had less than five centimetres of snow. The planes were grounded, the trains weren’t running, the children who did go to school had snowball fights and hot chocolate. It was the kind of snow days you read about in Enid Blyton books, just with more technology.
So imagine my surprise when I found myself in Edmonton trudging to school, in -20 weather, stuffed into snow pants — recommended by the immigration offices — that my parents swore all the children wore, with pink and green snow boots from Zellers. (Remember Zellers?) Turns out, the children did not wear anything of the sort. The most common attire for children in Grade 9 was jeans and your average sneakers or boots (UGGs were big back then). And it was so, so cold. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of gloves I wore, my fingers were always cold. I was haunted by the possibility of frostbite, hypothermia and pneumonia. The winter personified the phrase “freeze to death.” In all that time, I wasn’t sure how anyone could enjoy the winter, let alone survive it.
The Deep Freeze Festival changed that for me. I was captivated at how the community came together to celebrate the winter. There was music, performances and ice. Ice everywhere. Ice in the corner where some kids were playing hockey, ice sculptures, ice covered in maple syrup. It was unlike anything I had seen before. It wasn’t until the festival was postponed that I realized how much I enjoyed it. This year, things are a little spread out, but I’ll be there to watch my community come together all the same.
Use the map to find the public art like the Fibre Art Roving Installation where you can create your own fables on a felt board. Or find the beautiful Vaulted Willow in Borden Park. As you go through the festival, maybe you’ll find a hidden fairy, or discover a new cultural story by local artists, friends and neighbours. From February 5 to 14, the Byzantine Winter Festival is celebrating its 14th year. Isn’t it time we started to enjoy ourselves within our limitations?