Five Canadian Songs About Winter

By: James Sandham

Five Canadian Songs About Winter

Canada. True north strong and free. Land of the beaver, poutine and maple syrup. Lumberjacks. There are many clichés that come to mind when considering what’s north of the 49th parallel. But none is more poignant than the snow. Snow transcends cliché. It’s an intimate aspect of every Canadian’s psyche. And winter, its harbinger – well, that word should resonate viscerally with anyone here who’s made it through a full one. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that Canada’s songsters find it such fecund subject matter. From Gordon Lightfoot to Malajube, the Canadian winter has been a source of inspiration (and despair) for many. So, as it wraps its icy arms around us once more, what better time to hunker down (preferably someplace warm), heat up some poutine and take a look at five of the best odes from our country, to our season.

J.P. Hoe – “Snow Plow”

J P Hoe

“Yeah, there was insulin. And sure, there was the telephone. But every warm-blooded, snow-shovelling Canadian will tell you, the greatest invention ever was the snow blower.” So opens J.P. Hoe’s ode to his favourite power tool. But these introductory meditations are no mere exercise in hyperbolic excess. As a Winnipeg native, and the man behind the perennially popular J.P. Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show, Hoe knows snow. Crisp, clean and fluffy to the eye, it can be nonetheless deadly to the cardiopulmonarily infirm. Toro vendors, rejoice.


Gordon Lightfoot – “Song for a Winter’s Night”

Gordon Lighfoot

As Lightfoot explains in his introductory remarks to the video, this song was actually written during a bad storm in Cleveland, Ohio, as he ruminated on the “snow and the winter and the romance thereof.” Nothing like a thunderstorm in the Midwest to make you wax nostalgic for the good ol’ snowstorms back home, I guess. A beautiful composition nonetheless – complete with ringing sleigh bells – to celebrate winter’s under-appreciated romance.


Maplewood Lane – “Canadian Winters”

Maplewood Lane

Another entry under the “romance” category of winter songs is Maplewood Lane’s “Canadian Winters,” which, unlike the aforementioned contribution, speaks to a decidedly more prominent aspect of the winter: its loneliness. It’s not all snowflakes and hot chocolate, you know – it can be long and grey and dreary.



Hilary Grist – “Branch’s Arms”


Here’s another little-known aspect of the Canadian winter: it makes you kind of crazy. Some say it’s due to the lack of natural sunlight, but whatever the reason, it would certainly explain Hilary Grist’s “Branch’s Arms,” – a song that starts off in ostensible sympathy for the weighty snow that trees must bear upon their branches these dark and chilly months, but ultimately concludes (spoiler alert) with the decision to simply chop said branches off and burn them to stay warm. Actually, maybe that’s not so crazy after all….


Malajube – “Montreal -40ºC”


Rounding out the bunch, how about a little instalment from our friends across the Rideau? Not quite sure what this one’s about – not only due to my français merdique, but also because, even in English, the lyrics are less than clear. One thing that’s for certain though, is that Montreal is très froid. That said, it’s probably also one of the best Canadian cities to see in the snow. But that’s the thing about Canadian winter – the duality of the experience, the ying mixed with the yang, beauty mixed with despair, hardship mixed with heartfelt warmth…. It’s a crazy time, so bundle up.

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