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It’s winter carnival time, and there are lots of places to get out and celebrate the season.

Many feature ice sculptures, hockey, skating, sledding, et. al.

We are on the look for unique winter festivals in smaller places beyond the wonderful and popular ones that most Canadians are familiar with (Winterlude, Quebec Winter Carnival, et. al. ) We write of them as well).

We recently came across a winter acivity new to us (Thanks to Travel the Prairies website).

It is called Sosemanuk or Snow Snake, a game with a history linked by many areas of the north,  places like Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.

Its origins are said to come out of a First Nations tradition among the local Aboriginals.

It is believed that villagers used the wooden “snakes” to communicate, longhouse to longhouse, during hard winters.

Out of this tradition evolved a winter game that has entertained entire generations of locals.

Essentially, competitors push a stick down a snow bank to see who can get their stick the farthest.

Today, teams of men often journey between territories for seasonal tournaments (i.e. Onandagas in Upstate New York) . Each competitor takes a running start and hurls a snake, a sleek wooden pole, into the opening atop the track.

The stick is made from hardwood, about two or four feet in length. The front end is wider and thicker than the handle and is curved upward or has a small ball on the end. The stick should be well polished, so it will be able to glide easily.

The game, played near a well-iced snow bank,  has as its object the bouncing  of the stick off the bank and slide the “snake” further than your opponents.

The head of the stick is held between the thumb and forefinger and swung like a pendulum. It is then released underhand with a sweeping motion.

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