A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Monday, 19 March 2018

Red mittens to warm your heart - and your hands

This red mitten charm represents something very special that I have discovered, and it's helping with my depression - helping me "beat the winter blues." I will start by sharing with you the story behind the accidental phenomenon of the red mitten that has raised millions of dollars for Canadian Olympic athletes. And I'll finish with a review of the red mitten charm. I'm excited to show you how I've styled it.

In preparation for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada, the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) tasked the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) with designing the torchbearers' uniforms, requesting that they be white with sky blue and sea green accents, presumably because the City of Vancouver sits between the Pacific Ocean and the Canadian Rockies.

According to a story in the Toronto Star, Jeff Sherman, the president and CEO of Hudson's Bay, suggested "it needed something a little extra, something a little more distinctly Canadian, something that would give it a little pop of colour." HBC designers and VANOC came up with red mittens, with the Olympic rings stitched on the back and a white maple leaf sewn into the palm - perfect for cheering and waving. Sherman, a New Yorker, declared, "They're Canadian. They're so Canadian."

Of course anyone in Canada whose mother - or grandmother - can knit had handmade red mittens when they were a kid, with a string through the sleeves of their snowsuit - so they wouldn't lose their mittens. I'm sure that string would be outlawed in schoolyards nowadays. Ironically, someone did lose their red mitts - left at our house last weekend. So I thought I'd use them in a photo.

When the torchbearers' uniforms were unveiled the red mittens were an instant hit with the media, which I find amusing since they didn't really match the blue wavy lines and green accents!

the red mittens part of the torchbearers' uniforms

Although they were not allowed to sell the uniforms of the torchbearers, HBC and VANOC decided the mitts alone could be offered for sale - and sell they did! When those mittens hit the shelves in October 2009, the first distribution was 300,000 pairs of mitts. They lasted a week! When a stock of 3 million arrived in stores, 2 million sold before the Olympics even began that February. All net proceeds would go to benefit Canada's Olympic athletes.

Wayne Gretsky
Canadian Hockey Legend
Winter Olympics Nagano 1998
Director of Canada's Olympic hockey team 2002
The red mitten sales were boosted by the fact that Canadians would see the red mittens every night on the evening news, as a relay of 12,000 torchbearers carried the Olympic torch across the country, visiting over 1000 communities over a period of 106 days, all waving their red mittens with the white maple leaf. As the Olympic torch travelled its 45,000 km journey, the Olympic fever spread, and as it got closer and closer to the west coast the red mitten frenzy grew too.

Cheryl Pounder
Women's hockey gold medal
Winter Olympics Salt Lake City 2002
Red mittens became a media sensation. Retailers couldn't keep up with the demand. Everybody wanted the red mittens.

Members of Parliament showed their Olympic spirit.

The Prince of Wales modelled a pair.

Even Oprah got in on the action.

According to Time magazine, as the Today Show broadcast from the Vancouver Games telling Oprah how hard it was to find a pair of red mittens, Oprah waved back wearing her very own red mittens (with her personalized Ralph Lauren USA Olympic team jersey.) And as Oprah has been known to do, she proclaimed, "Not only do I have the mittens, but everyone in the studio audience is getting a pair!" And little elves carried in a batch of more than 300 pairs of the coveted red mittens.

HBC eventually sold 3.5 million pairs of these original red mittens from the 2010 Olympics, raising over $14 million for the Canadian Olympic Foundation. Thus began a new Canadian tradition of annual red winter mittens.

photo from Hudson's Bay Company on Instagram

With such enthusiastic response, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Hudson's Bay Company decided to re-launch the red mittens for the Winter of 2011. And they have done so each year since.

In 2011 there were 1.63 million pairs of mittens sold contributing 14.9 million dollars to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. Funds raised would support programs like Own the Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee's Athlete Excellence Fund, Olympic and Pan American Games preparation and Games missions.


For the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London the red mittens went a little retro. 

Karen Cockburn
three-time medalist, trampoline
London Olympics 2012

For the Winter of 2013 HBC changed things up, trying a red and white candy cane stripe and red maple leaf.

The Olympic Committee ramped things up for the next Winter Olympics in Sochi 2014. These mittens with white finger tips were called "Snow Tops." Get it? Like snow-topped mountains, winter, skiing...

They capitalized on the word "CAN" in Canada. As in, "Can we do it? Yes we CAN!"

And created a hashtag #MittenSpotting

Red mittens returned for the winter of 2015 with the theme of "Go Canada." A press release from the Canadian Olympic Committee in September of 2014 celebrated the fact that the "Red Mitten Initiative" - as it was now being called - had raised over $26 million by then.

And to increase engagement on social media there was another new hashtag #RedMittens and people were encouraged to show where they "Go" with their #RedMittens #GoMittensGo

Olympians Marie-Philip Poulin, Shannon Szabadoa, and Caroline Roulette are sporting the red mittens for the winter of 2016. These Women's Hockey stars had eight gold medals between them when they posed for this photo.

With the maple leaf on the back of these mittens they were not as great for waving, but when you put your hands together it spells Canada, so that's cool. We still have two pair of these red mittens in use in our home.

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio saw a new wave of interest in red mittens. Despite the heat in Brazil, Canadian athletes were equipped with red mittens and did not disappoint. Social media was all abuzz about the Canadian athletes wearing their mittens during the closing ceremonies - at a Summer Olympics. At that time, for each pair of $12 mittens sold, 30 percent of the sale was donated to help Canadian athletes succeed.


I had a pair of these Rio red and white mittens, which my son "borrowed" to do snow shovelling, showing that white is not such a practical colour, especially for Mitchell. However, this picture conveniently shows that the mittens are fleece-lined and very cosy - and obviously popular in our house. To replace these my son just gifted me a pair of the 2018 red mittens for Christmas.

And just last month, the closing ceremony for the 2018 PeungChang Winter Olympics saw Canadian athletes once again waving their red mittens. All these little pops of white maple leaves look to me like lighters held aloft at a rock concert. With maple leaves on the front and the back, the white maples leaves are visible if you're waving to the crowd or carrying the flag like Canada's favourite couple, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, gold-medalists in ice dance.

We will have to wait until the ParaOlympics are finished to hear the most up-to-date numbers on how much money has been raised through the sale of red mittens. But a press release from 2017 indicated that the Red Mittens have now contributed over $30 million dollars to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. Having become the nation's most iconic symbol of Canadian Olympic pride $3.90 from the sale of each pair of red mittens goes to support Canadian athletes.

Which brings me to my red mittens and what the red mitten charm represents for me. In previous posts I've shared about how much I love Autumn and how I earned my wood muranos by going hiking in the Fall. But that always seemed to drop off after Christmas, and stop altogether once winter was really upon us. And each Spring I find myself out of shape again. The Spring of 2017 was the worst ever! So this year, as fall turned to winter, I was determined to keep up the walking and hiking, despite the cold and snow.

As I mentioned in posts about my "Wildflower Walks" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," it really helps to find a reason for exercising - something that "pulls" you - and something that isn't a "should." As in, "I should be exercising." Or "I should workout so I can lose weight." In the summer my "pull" was that I was excited to go check out the flowers in bloom. In the fall my "pull" was that I just love the colours. This winter I found a new "pull."

First of all, when I look outside and see that it's sunny I actually want to go for a walk in my neighbourhood. And I've discovered a brand new incentive. The funniest part is that it was a total surprise, completely unplanned, just like the red mitten phenomenon.

Earlier in February my husband and I went for our usual Saturday hike. As we rounded a corner, I said, "Oh look at all those chickadees!" Then, "Oh look, there's birdseed on that bench!" I picked some up and held out my mitten-ed hand and said, "Oh how adorable; they're landing on my red mitten! Mike! Take a picture - quick!" So that's the picture I see in my mind when I think about red mittens - that magical moment of hearing the chickadees chirping and then seeing them coming closer on the tree branches, then bravely dashing to my hand and away again - some more cautious than others. I was absolutely delighted!

Now I want to go for a hike on the weekends, because I want to feed the birds.

YouTube video Chickadees on the Sarsaparilla Trail

YouTube video Chickadees slo-mo (stop action)

So now we are exploring Ottawa's Greenbelt, dubbed the "emerald necklace," a ring of green space surrounding the city with wetlands, forests and fields. It is among the largest urban parks in the world spanning over 200-square-kilometres and containing 150 km of trails for walking, snow-shoeing or cross country skiing.

YouTube video Chickadees on the Jack Pine Trail. Watch to the end to see the more cautious fellow. If you have the sound on you can hear the soft thrumming of their wings.

My husband feeding the chickadees
Jack Pine Trail

According to my husband, who just knows these things, we saw blue jays, a downy woodpecker, morning doves, and black-capped chickadees, as well as deer tracks, on the Jack Pine trail. We recently read that someone had encountered deer as well as a snowshoe hare, so we'll definitely want to return to this trail.

My husband even managed to encourage our 16-year-old daughter to join us a few weeks ago and she took the photos below. My favourite part was her little squawk of surprise when the first chickadee landed on her hand. I was delighted to feed the birds myself but I was even more delighted to hear my daughter say, "They are so tiny! I love them so much!"

black-capped chickadee on the Beaver-Chipmunk Trail

black-capped chickadee on the Sarsparilla Trail
black-capped chickadee on the boardwalk of Sarsaparilla Trail
A new-comer: a red-breasted nuthatch

For me the red mitten charm, which will likely last longer than the latest pair of red mittens, will not only mean cheering for Olympians, representing my pride in being Canadian, but also this special activity of finding hiking trails where we can feed the birds. It warms my heart to know that some of the proceeds hep Olympic athletes. And it warms my heart to be in touch with nature. I've found a delightful reason to get outside during this long, dark and cold "Canadian Winter," as the red mitten charm is called. This has really been helping me beat the winter blues this year.

Chickadees on my old red mittens

And in case you're wondering, Yes, it is still Winter in Canada, and Yes, we are still wearing mittens. It snowed almost every day last week!
Fresh snow, less than a week ago: Tuesday, March 13, 2018
A few snowflakes landed on my mitten

My Thoughts on the Red Mitten Charm:

The red mitten charm, officially called "Canadian Winter," is an almost perfect replication of the original red mitten from the 2010 Winter Olympics Games in Vancouver Canada.

If you look closely you can see that the charm is indented and then filled with red enamel, with raised silver lines to depict the cuff of the mitten. The maple leaf is raised and filled with the white enamel.

While the bale on many Pandora charms is set with cubic zirconia recently, I like the simpler look of the little line of hearts. And the hearts surrounding the dangle are adorable. Unlike previous exclusive charms that are engraved on Pandora's "Unforgettable Moments" dangle with the Pandora logo on the back, these newer lines of exclusive charms are blank on the back, perfect for a custom engraving.

This red mitten charm is much more affordable than the charm that Pandora released at the time of the Vancouver Olympics. It now sells in Facebook groups for over $200. I did see these in stores when I first started purchasing Pandora in December of 2011, but I wasn't prepared to spend $99 on a charm which, at the time, I thought looked like a golf ball with a maple leaf on it. Many people reported that the white enamel was yellowing, another reason I've avoided this charm.

For now I am wearing the red mitten charm on my triple red smooth leather bracelet and it sits perfectly between the pine cone charm and the bright ornament charm, each with a ribbon on them. I might try and find a spot for the red mitten dangle on my Christmas bracelet with these next year.

If I'm really honest I think I'll just have to make a Canada bracelet. I've been contemplating a travel bracelet but Greece and Mexico are the only places I've been to outside of North America - although a girl can dream!

So in looking at other charms to represent Canada I've found quite a few. The charms in the first picture below are all available at the Pandora store in the Fairview mall (@pandorafairview) in Toronto. I was never really thrilled with the heart-shaped Canada flag dangle (first from the left) and I haven't really embraced the button-style charms, but I'd make an exception for that large maple leaf (second from the left). The button charm has either Toronto or Canada engraved on the back. The black murano with Canada on it is quite striking and I love that it has a red maple leaf. The maple leaf charm with the red cz is already in use on another bracelet of mine, but I did live in Toronto at one time so that last charm would work. My favourite thing to do in Toronto was to take the ferry to Toronto Island and look back across the water at the city skyline.

I worked for a summer in the Canadian Rockies and spent most of my days off in the town of Banff, Alberta. There is a store in Banff that has some exclusive charms - these are my favs. I don't know if I would be able to decide between the red maple leaf and the black moose. Find them on Instagram (@PandoraBanff)  if you want to see their other exclusive charms and engraved muranos for both Banff and Lake Louise.

This red murano engraved with "Canada" is sold at my favourite Pandora concept store in Ottawa, at the Rideau Centre mall (@pandorarideau). I think it would go very nicely with the black engraved murano.

These exclusive charms were all purchased for a friend in Spain, most from the Rideau Centre. If I'm going to do a Canada bracelet I might have to get a few of these other pieces.

A few of those charms are also from the store I always visit when I'm back "home" in Nova Scotia. The lovely ladies at the Pandora store in the Mic Mac Mall (@pandoramicmac) kindly gifted me one of the Pride Flag charms last summer. The following charms represent Halifax, the city where I grew up, and Nova Scotia, the Canadian province I'm from. And most people who grow up in the Atlantic Provinces love the "East Coast" lifestyle!


I'm doomed.

Related Posts:

Finding motivation and building habits - a story about how the Wildflower Walks turned into finding a new passion in photographing flowers and discovering a significant new affirmation - and the charm that represents it.

Can you see what's there? It's a wonderland - a story about how looking around you and seeing beauty can help in the recovery from food issues, as well as healing personally and spiritually; I've also included a short piece about my mother's battle with Alzheimer's - and the charm that represents it.

Breakfast - the most important meal of the day, for a different reason - a story about trying to make lifestyle changes and why we feel badly about ourselves when we inevitably fail; I share my story about making SMART goals and the importance of identifying barriers - and charm that reminds me of the importance of connecting with our kids.

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