Lest We Forget

Each November, Canadians take a day to reflect on and remember the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom. Known as Remembrance Day, many (but not all) Canadians are given a day off work/school on November 11th to participate in the events held to commemorate our military veterans. If November 11 falls on a weekend (as it does this year), some employers and schools provide a day off in lieu on the Monday after the 11th.

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Canadian History is Cool Again

A few months ago I wrote about having the great fortune to discover that Heritage Minutes are available for viewing online. Canadians of almost any age will remember this series of history videos that began airing on television in 1991. Each Minute depicts a significant moment, person or event that influenced Canadian history and they left many a viewer (including yours truly) transfixed back in the day.

If you didn’t grow up watching Heritage Minutes, you likely a) are not Canadian and b) have no idea that history can be interesting enough to make you anticipate commercial breaks. If either of those options apply to you, dear reader, I am truly sorry. While I can’t help you with the first issue, you should check out this post to resolve the second issue. I’ll wait for you to come back…

…okay, now that we’re all on the same page about history commercials being cool, you should brace yourself because Continue reading

Longing for May

I’m going to go out on a limb and start this post off with a blanket statement: everyone loves civic holidays. People who get the day off with full pay know there’s nothing better than making money while you sleep in. And for those who are employed in hourly positions, getting paid time and a half (or more) to do what you would normally do is always a good thing. Even the self-employed benefit from an easy commute to work and long weekend deals at bars. See? It’s a win-win-win!

In Canada, the most longed-for and anticipated of all civic holidays is undoubtably the long weekend in May. Getting New Years Day off is a nice bonus, and the August long weekend is guaranteed to be hot, but nothing beats May’s Victoria Day holiday because it’s the unofficial start of summer…or at least full-fledged spring.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Everyone Loves a Heritage Minute

While doing some research for this post a few weeks ago, I stumbled on a few classic Canadian “Heritage Minute” videos on YouTube. I was thrilled to find out that they’re available for viewing online because these videos used to leave me transfixed when I was little…and apparently they still do today.

Heritage Minute videos first aired on television in 1991, and each one depicts a significant moment, person or event who influenced Canadian history. I know that Canadian history may seem like a really boring topic, but we’ve actually done some pretty amazing things over the years! From creating Superman and basketball, to our roles in Vimy Ridge and helping free American slaves through the Underground Railroad, these vignettes make your Canadian heart swell with pride.

Whenever a Heritage Minute would come on tv when I was a kid, I used to cross my fingers and hope it was a story I hadn’t yet seen. The minute-long videos were fairly frequently aired over the years, so it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a new one. But through the magic of the internet, you can easily access over 70 of them on the Historica Dominion Institute website.

Here are a few examples of the reasons Canadians have to be proud of our collective heritage: Continue reading

Too Cool for Umbrellas

When you live in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, it’s impossible to know what to wear on a given day. In Calgary you can wake up to 10 cm of fresh snow, eat lunch amid a hail storm, and drive home with your windows open wishing you’d worn flip flops to work. There’s a saying that if you don’t like the weather in Calgary, just wait five minutes. And on most days that’s fairly accurate. I can’t image being a weather forecaster here because the odds of you being correct for an entire day are about as good as you winning a Lotto 649 jackpot.

So as you can imagine, Calgarians are used to dressing in layers and preparing for all four seasons to bombard us within a 24 hour time period. Our closets and cars are filled with mittens, scarves, earmuffs, snow boots, blankets, jackets, sweaters, and a number of other items used to save us from the elements.

The image below gives you an idea of what the weather was like in Calgary today. For context, please note that this morning the streets were completely clean, and the grass was just starting to turn green… Continue reading

Caesar Teaser

While doing some research for my next blog post I rediscovered the Canadian Heritage Minute videos that were produced in the 1990s. From James Naismith inventing basketball to African American slaves escaping to Canada through the underground railroad in the 1800s, Heritage Minutes showcase the best of Canada’s history. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you’re a Canadian and watching those clips doesn’t bring a proud tear to your eye, I recommend moving south of the 49th parallel pronto.

Anyway, while watching all these Heritage Minute videos I stumbled across one that’s a spoof on the history of Canada’s most beloved cocktail. Since that’s exactly what my next blog post is about, I thought I’d share this to get you thirsty to learn more:

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A Fridge Full of French

French in my fridge
If you haven’t visited or lived in Canada, you might not know that our country is officially bilingual. Canada is a culturally diverse nation where numerous languages are spoken, but only French and English are legally protected by the Canadian Constitution. Rather than getting into a lengthy history discussion, suffice it to say that Canada is officially bilingual because we were founded by both the French and the English.

Now you might assume that all Canadians can speak both languages, but according to the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages some 22 million Canadians can speak either French or English but not both. As of 2006, 85% of Canadians spoke English, 31% spoke French, and 2% spoke neither language.

The effects of living in a bilingual country can be easy to overlook because they just become part of your everyday life. For instance, Continue reading

Pass the Poutine, Please!

Every culture has its own distinct foods that you long for if you’ve been away from home for too many days. Some are intricate dishes, perfected over thousands of years. Others are comparatively new on the food scene, but become beloved cultural fixtures in short order. And many meals, regardless of how long they’ve been around for, take a little faith for the first-timer to try.  For instance, as I mentioned in this post, Canadians down thousands of Caesars each year. The uninitiated, however, need a little convincing to get past the whole tomato juice mixed with clam juice thing before they can truly appreciate Canada’s beloved hangover cure.  As for me, I rarely order a Caesar at home. But travelling for any extended period of time never fails to make me start craving one.

The glorious Caesar

Image by acme via Flickr

In terms of cravings though, my urge to down a Caesar is nothing compared to the itch I get for a good plate of poutine if I haven’t had any for a few weeks. If you are one of those unfortunate souls who has never sampled this nectar of the gods, I’m sorry to tell you that your life is incomplete. Continue reading

Canada Really Cuts the Mustard

If you asked someone to name a few foods that come to mind when they think of Canada, they would probably list items like maple syrup, poutine, and Canadian bacon (spoiler alert: we just call it bacon). Clamato juice might also be mentioned if they’d ever had the hair of the dog in the Great White North, or tourtiere if they’d spent a Christmas in Quebec.

But if you switched the question up and asked them to name the most popular condiment that originates in Canada, I’d be willing to bet the farm (pun intended) that not one person would provide the correct answer.

So what condiment am I referring to? Well if you haven’t already figured it out from this post’s title, here’s a visual hint: Continue reading