Oh, Canada. Land of poutine, hockey pucks, and the Little Mushroom People of Nova Scotia (er, the latter is only true in “South Park”). What strange things could possibly exist in this land of frozen tundra and excessive politeness—besides that whole October Thanksgiving, that is? As it turns out, plenty.
My editor asked me to dig up some fun facts about Canada to share with you all—how could I say no? Here are four of the most unusual (er, interesting) things I could find. It’s all true, guys—I can’t make this stuff up.
Plates of Plenty
Things get weird out on the prairie. All those high rolling grasses and endless blue skies must have quite the effect on the locals, because at some point they decided to stop washing their dishes…at least, dishes that didn’t belong to them. Yes, friends, if you end up moving to the Canadian prairie and your neighbour makes you a casserole, you better be sure you don’t wash that plate. I repeat: Do not wash that plate. Leave the casserole remainders on the dish. Preferably let it sit overnight. Then—and only then—can you return it to your neighbour. Like Joshamee Gibbs said in one “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie or another, “Returning a washed dish is just bad luck.”
Now, I have no actual idea why it’s bad luck. Presumably some guy was attacked by a moose when he tried to do the dishes, and decided that no one should ever wash anything again.
You Call That Cold?
Imagine the scene—New Year’s Day, 2:30 p.m. Odds are it’s a cold, blustery day. There might be snow. English Bay, Vancouver, is freezing. And…oh, yes, there’s a whole bunch of Canadians stripping down to their skivvies and racing into the frigid waters. It’s glorious, icy chaos.
The Polar Bear Swim—still devoid of actual polar bears, in case you were wondering—started in 1920 with 10 people. For inexplicable reasons, taking a plunge into the glacial depths appealed to folks, and nowadays thousands of them try it.
Hey, polar bears, as the funny Canadian saying goes, “You do you.”
The culture in Canada is friendly, if nothing else. We knew that, but it turns out that friendliness extends to extraterrestrials—the country built the world’s first UFO Landing Platform way back in 1967. Located in St. Paul, Alberta, the platform is round (much like the UFOs meant to land on it) and contains a map of Canada. Presumably any UFOs who swing by will see it, say “Hey! Let’s hang with these fine folks!” and roll on out with a nice casserole.
God help them if they expect us to wash that dish, though.
I Don’t Want It
Here’s a good one. In Ottawa, the Speaker of the Commons is physically dragged to his (or her) new chair. After being elected, the speaker engages in the usual acceptance of praise from his peers and then gets yanked by the tie (or lapels, or blouse, I guess) to his nice new chair. It’s a nice bit of symbolism, perhaps reminding us that the best leaders are not those who are starved for power.
Unlike some politicians I can think of…
Who else but a Canadian would put a preserved toe in some booze and call it a drink? Seriously. Some guy found a severed toe floating around in alcohol and decided it would make the perfect garnish. I don’t understand it. I’m betting you don’t either. But there it is. Next time you go to the Yukon–at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, to be exact–ask for the Sourtoe Cocktail, made with a real toe and a little whiskey.
Please don’t swallow it. People have done that, and then the bar has to replace the toe, which means they need to solicit toe donation, and it that just gets weird.
So there you have it—you’ve learned about some of the country’s oddest traditions. Now drink some maple syrip and play some hockey, and your journey to Canadianness will be complete.
What’s your favourite Canadian tradition?
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