The maple tree has long been of great significance to the people of Canada; before Europeans arrived, the native peoples of this vast nation had already discovered the delicious and nutritious properties of maple sap, a true boon in their harsh land where flavorful and vitamin-rich foods were incredibly scarce come the first thaws of spring.
Early French settlers, who relied heavily on the wisdom of the native peoples to survive through the bitter Canadian winters, soon picked up on the value of the maple tree. The St. Jean Baptiste Society made the maple leaf its official emblem in 1834, and then in 1836, Le Canadien (a major newspaper read by many Francophones in Lower Canada), suggested it as a “suitable emblem for Canada.”
Leaves leave also your wallet… if you’re in Canada.
Photo by The Devil Saint
Over a decade later, English-speaking Canada also took up the maple leaf as a fitting symbol for the nation, with the Toronto literary annual calling it “the chosen symbol of Canada” in 1848.
From there, the maple leaf went on to make its way into a national anthem (no longer used today), onto all of Canada’s coins, and onto the badge of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I, and more. The leaf symbol changed in color from green to red in 1957, when the three maple leafs on the arms of Canada were altered to reflect the bright and proud vermillion that is Canada’s national color. Finally, on February 15, 1965, Canada made it truly official: the red maple leaf flag was adopted as the national flag of Canada.
Canada produces 85% of all maple syrup in the world.
Canadians’relationship with the maple is no mere relic of history, however. In contemporary Canada, the consumption and export of maple syrup remains a booming industry carried by many successful family businesses (mainly in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec). Maple syrup collection is also a beloved family outing, with few children in the maple-bearing provinces growing up without a visit or several to the “sugar bush”to witness maple syrup collection in action, eat homemade pancakes drizzled with it, and buy as much fresh maple candy and syrup as their parents will let them. (Given that maple syrup is believed to have a cocktail of at least 20 antioxidants, there’s no harm in indulging a little bit, after all.)
The culprits in full automn apparel.
Photo by Neville Nel
If you’re planning to visit Canada in the spring and want to partake in this much-loved cultural tradition, head to the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I, or Newfoundland ‒ all but the northerly portions of these provinces contain syrup-producing maple trees.