As of yesterday my children have missed 7 school days due to weather. (It’s only the middle of February so I’m confident that number will rise.) On one such snowy day my mother in law asked if we wished we had stayed in Texas. “Are you kidding?” I exclaimed. “This is the best winter we’ve had in ages! It’s so beautiful and we are having so much fun!” I’m so grateful to Michigan for giving us such a perfect welcome to the state.
I realize not everyone shares my love of winter so let me explain a little.
As a child I never once experienced a school cancellation for weather. In fact, in the far North from whence I hail, it was illegal to cancel school for the weather. After all, if it’s cold enough to cancel school in the Yukon it is life and death cold. Inevitably someone would miss the report on the radio that school is cancelled, and that child would die waiting for the school bus that wasn’t coming. I know it’s grim, but those are the facts of life.
In Canada we work on the metric system – with the exception of height and weight for reasons I will never understand. But with regard to temperature, the metric system is remarkably clear. Water freezes at 0. Subzero is freezing, above zero is not. Simple. However, both Celsius and Fahrenheit meet together at -40 degrees. And that is a number, Celsius or Fahrenheit, with which I am very familiar.
Minus forty is not only where we found common ground with our Alaskan neighbors. It was also where we started complaining that there ought to be a law that school is cancelled when it’s this cold. School was still in session although attendance was a bit sparse.
Don’t Just Survive: Thrive
We are a stoic lot, us northerners. We were “just doing it” long before Nike rolled out their iconic ad. It doesn’t make any sense to just stop living life for a third of your life. How did we get through the winter? We just did. But we are also an adventurous lot, and while enduring the winter we had a lot of fun.
Early winter is easy: Christmas preparations and celebrations bring light to the darkest time of the year. In my experience January, February, and sometimes even March, are much harder. Yes, the light creeps in a little more every day, but the days are still very cold and cabin fever is real.
To combat cabin fever, we participated in the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous in February. This two-week long celebration brought a lot of fun to the winter. Events include hair freezing contests, dog sled races, log toss, vaudeville shows, chainsaw chucking, hard water canoeing, and so much more. Everyone dresses up in turn of the century garb (that’s the turn of the 20th century for you young’uns) and has a blast. Between the preparations and the actual celebration, Rendezvous does a lot to break up the long winter.
Primarily catholic regions celebrate Carnaval in late winter as well. While Americans may be most familiar with the New Orleans or Brazilian varieties of Carnaval, we grew up singing the songs of the Quebec City Carnaval. Features of the Quebec City Carnaval include an ice palace, snow sculptures, night parades, ice canoe races.
(Here in Detroit there isn’t much for Carnaval, but we do celebrate Mardi Gras by clogging our arteries with paczkis. Can’t we at least add some ax throwing to work off all that fat and sugar?)
You probably won’t find yourself participating in either of these northern winter celebrations, but you can take the lessons from them and apply them to yourself. The idea is to LIVE and to have fun doing so.
My lists below are by no means comprehensive, but they should be enough to get your gears going.
Winter Fun With Kids
- snow sculptures
- snowball fights
- sledding / tubing / tobogganing
- snow angels
- get buried in the snow (like with sand at the beach)
- painting snow (use diluted food coloring)
- take the snow inside and play in the bath
- nature walks to identify animal tracks
Winter Fun Outdoors – Any Age
- skiing, downhill or cross-country
- snow shoeing
- ice skating, indoor rink, outdoor rink, on a frozen lake/pond/canal
- snowmobiling (side note: that’s how I toured Yellowstone the first time, highly recommend)
- dog mushing
- go for a drive
- scavenger hunt, photo or otherwise
- maple syrup tapping, if you’re near sugar maple trees
- make maple syrup taffy, a childhood favourite of mine
- enjoy the chores (stay with me here, I’m not the only one who enjoys shoveling the driveway; I love the solitude and the exercise.)
- remote control cars and other toys we use in summer are also fun in winter
Winter Fun In Your Community
Keep your eyes peeled on the local newspapers and follow local organizations on social media, you’ll find all sorts of organizations planning fun activities. Parks departments, museums, schools, churches, media outlets, emergency responders, and sometimes even businesses plan community events. Some of them are a lot of fun!
Winter Fun Indoors
Of course, when the weather outside is frightful it is delightful to huddle inside. Hibernation mode is also an acceptable winter pursuit. What can you do indoors without going stir crazy? You’re only limited by yourself. Listed are some activities my family loves.
- yarn arts, quilting, other crafts
- family history
- games, video or board (I’m a huge fan of board games for family bonding)
- movie marathons
- bird watching (set up a bird feeder outside a window and enjoy nature from the warmth of your own home)
- music music music (make the music yourself, collaborate with friends, listen to others performing)
- community theatre
- arts festivals
- sporting events
- move your body (you can still do this indoors!)
- and of course, all things hygge: light a fire, cuddle up under a blanket with a cup of tear or cocoa, and settle into hibernation mode.
For most of the past two decades I have lived in places where winter was functionally meaningless. In Hawaii winter meant surf season and rain. In Southern California it meant not fire season. Even in Texas winter was little more than an inconvenience that would happen most years. I loved all of those places, and called them all home. But I found the lack of seasons disorienting. What can I say? I like variety.
If summer is endless there’s little drive to make the most of it. Likewise with winter. Winter doesn’t last forever – not even in the Yukon! – but there’s a lot you can do to enjoy it while you’ve got it. Be confident in knowing that spring will come. Enjoy winter: soak it up, play it out. Don’t just float through a third of your life, waiting for it to end. That’s not living.
Winter is a special time. Dress properly and get outside. When else can we mere mortals walk on water?
What did I miss? Tell me in the comments!