Québec Carnival : The Winter Event of North America

In February, when many Canadians escape to warm and sunny destinations, we elected to embrace the weather. In true Canadian fashion, we braved the cold and joined in the festivities at the world’s biggest winter celebration, the Québec Winter Carnival!

Le monde de Bonhomme awairts

Le monde de Bonhomme awaits

We’ve had memorable trips with the extended family to the Carnival and this year, it was time to initiate our young nieces to the famous event.

It’s hard to snap pictures when fumbling with frozen fingers, so we’ve used some photos from previous years.

A family affair. View of Quartier Petit Champlain (Loweer Town) from the top of Escalier casse-sou (Breakneck stairs) (2004)

A family affair. View of Quartier Petit Champlain (Lower Town) from the top of Escalier casse-cou (Breakneck stairs) (2004)

An annual gathering with roots dating back to 1895, the Carnival has delighted visitors every year since 1955. Over the course of 17 days from late January to mid-February, French-Canadian ‘Joie de vivre‘ attitude is at best in the historic capital city.

Old Québec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only fortified city in North America. With a European flair, 17th & 18th-century stone buildings and narrow cobblestone streets, the city will charm you!

Porte Kent (Kent Gate) one of the three major gates into the old city

Porte Kent (Kent Gate) one of the three major gates into the old city

View of Château Frontenac from Quartier Petit Champlain (Lower Town)

View of Château Frontenac from Quartier Petit Champlain (Lower Town)

Quartier Petit Champlain (Lower Town). The oldest commercial district in North America (2004)

Quartier Petit Champlain (Lower Town). The oldest commercial district in North America (2004)

A marvellous mural bringing history to life on Rue du Petit-Champlain

A marvellous mural bringing history to life on Rue du Petit-Champlain

DSC_0567

Frigid day at le Château Frontenac

Armed with a thermos of steaming hot chocolate, a cane of Caribou, lip balm, hand warmers, and extra wool socks, we’re prepared to survive hours of outdoor fun.

We bundled up from head to toe in our warmest winter gear. When it’s -18C with a wind chill factor -30C, fashion goes out the window. Dressed in layers of woollen undergarments, fleece sweaters, another sweater for good measure, fur-trimmed jackets, warm mitts, heavy boots and flapped hats, we ventured in search of Bonhomme. Canada’s most popular snowman ever!

Bonhomme CarnavalDressed in white, wearing a red ‘tuque’ and traditional French-Canadian ‘ceinture fléchée‘, he’s the beloved mascot of the festival, enchanting children for generations.

Bonhomme’s place of honour is the Ice Palace located across from the Québec parliament buildings.

Bonhomme's Ice palace (2015)

Bonhomme’s Ice palace (2015)

The Plains of Abraham turn into a giant winter playground with activities for all ages to enjoy.

Don’t miss these classics;

…tubing and sledding…

…snow bath; brave crazy souls take a dip in the snow wearing only their bathing suits…

…the sugar shack; taste maple syrup as it hardens to taffy on snow…

…join in a human Foosball game…

…the snow sculptures; local and international artist from around the world compete in this unique wintry activity…

One of the many snow sculptures

This year’s favourite sculpture

If it’s too cold for you, try some Caribou, a sweet Québecois concoction of red wine and alcohol; whisky, brandy or rum and maple syrup. That’s the secret liquid carried in the red walking canes sporting the head Bonhomme, sure to have you partying in the streets. Get a Caribou shooter at the ice bars around the city and or your own bottle at the province’s liquor stores (SAQ) during Carnival. Folklore is that French settlers made a fortified wine mixed with alcohol to make it more enjoyable. It’s dark red colour made the Natives think it was caribou blood, hence that’s where its name comes from.

Urban trappers serving Caribou (2005)

Be sure to attend one of the two magical night-time parades. You’ll be dancing to the fiddlers catchy tunes, stopping your feet with the marching bands, and wowed by the illuminated colourful floats.

Salut Bonhomme!

Many more outdoor sporting events take place during Carnival including ice canoe and dogsled races, skating, sleigh rides, hockey, and snowshoeing.

Sunday promised to be another cold day and that’s exactly what we got: frigid winter temperatures and 30 km winds from the North-East. We nearly froze our tails off, but not before checking out the Toboggan slides at the Terrasse Dufferin.

Despite our good intentions to watch the ice canoe races, the whirling snow and whipping wind kept us from venturing to the riverside. Originally a means of transportation during the cold Québec winters to cross the St. Lawrence River, canoe racing is now a competitive sport where team struggle over ice and strong current to reach the other shore and back.

Carnival de Quebec’s Canoe Races/photo credit Tom Ediger  An icy “affaire de coeur.”

Charismatic volunteer serving at the Flapjack Breakfast hosted by another great Canadian event – The Calgary Stampede. Her hat is covered in Bonhomme effigy.

A visit to the ‘Carnaval de Québec’ — always a memorable occasion!

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5 thoughts on “Québec Carnival : The Winter Event of North America

  1. Pingback: 2015 was Awesome, 2016 will be Amazing! | White Postcards

  2. Pingback: Postcard of the Week: Snow Bath at the Carnival | White Postcards

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