In Québec, winter is about more than just extreme snow falls and below zero temperatures. For years, Québecers have continued to embrace the fun that winter brings and celebrate the great outdoors even throughout their coldest months. Through January until mid-February, one of the best ways to experience Québec’s winter is in the province’s capital city at the Carnaval de Québec. Québec City’s proudest tourism event for 60 years, celebrate winter by attending the world’s largest winter carnival and see why Québec is known as the world’s snow capital.
The tradition roots back from the province’s French colonization where citizens were brought together to eat and drink before Lent. In 1894, winter carnivals started being held in the city’s center in order to turn the hardships of winter into sentiments of community and joy.
However, these first editions of winter carnivals were interrupted by times of economic distress and crisis of war.
In 1955, founders Louis Philippe Plamondon, Wilbrod Bherer and Louis Paré understood the economic benefits for the city in hosting an annual winter carnival therefore; the first edition of the Carnaval de Québec was born.
The carnival was an immediate hit and as predicted; continues to be a great source of tourism and economic activity for the city.
The official mascot, Bonhomme Carnaval,
is a fan favorite and loved by all festival-goers.
The beloved snowman was elected for his symbolic status
immediately after his first appearance in the carnival’s first edition.
Every year, the festival’s program is further enriched and features extravagant snow sculptures alongside winter activities derived from the heritage of Québec.
The three attractions of the Carnaval de Québec we believe you shouldn’t miss as a first time festival-goer and what really highlights the experience is:
the Ice Palace, the Ice Canoe Races and the Snow Sculptures.
The Famous Ice Palace
The center of all the festival’s activities and Home to Bonhomme Carnaval, the Ice Palace is the carnival’s main site for entertainment which features light displays and special effects.
The very first, magical ice palace was built at Place D’Youville and in 1973,
Bonhomme’s home was moved opposite facing the Parliament building.
An estimated 9000 tons of snow is compacted into bricks to build the castle walls that measure 50m wide, 20m deep and 20m high!
The structure calls for fifteen men to continuously work for two months to build Bonhomme’s home.
For more pictures and information of the Ice Palace be sure to check out the photo gallery here.
Ice Canoe Racing
An important and significant activity of Québec heritage that continues to be a part of the Carnaval de Québec since its first edition is ice canoe racing.
In 2014, the Ministry of Culture and Communications accounted the practice of this activity as an element of intangible Québec history.
Before being a sport, ice canoeing was a necessity for many throughout the hardships and setbacks of winter.
Ice canoeing has beaten the test of time and continues to be passed onto each following generation.
Today, spectators are invited to watch the legendary race that runs along the St. Lawrence River from Québec City until Lévis. Divided into preliminaries and finals, watch the elite masculine class and elite feminine class battle it out on the river in a race you are sure to never see anywhere else in the world.
Québec is the only place where ice canoe racing can be experienced making it one of the world’s most unique winter activities.
While you can always watch the race from the sidelines, you can also take part in this winter sport and try it out for yourself. Shorter than the actual races and supported by two experts, experience the winter activity of a lifetime as you float and paddle on the St Lawrence River with the ice cracking and current’s stream rushing beneath it.
In Place Desjardin and Place Loto-Québec, Carnaval invites you to immerse yourself in the giant outdoor museum of enormous and breathtaking snow sculptures.
Since the 1950s, snow sculpting has been a significant element to the Québec scene. Professionals, amateurs and even children took part in this activity whether it was on the official carnival grounds or throughout the small streets outside of their homes.
In 1973, the imagination and enthusiasm of citizens led the carnival to host its first International Snow Sculpture Competition. In its’ first year, the competition opened its doors to four teams to battle out the title for the most impressive sculpture.
Throughout the years, the competition has undergone modifications to today become known as one of the most prestigious and longest running snow sculpture competitions in the world. Every year, sculptors from around the world continue to attend in order to participate in this competition for the title. Many attend Carnaval simply just for this event because of the indescribable magic that is of watching snow transform into life right before their eyes.
Today, snow sculpting continues to be promoted to future generations even after the festival has wrapped up for the season by integrating the practice into many college and university art programs in order to ensure the continuity of this on-going tradition.
To keep you warm throughout the day, the traditional drink that’s been served throughout every carnival is caribou. Created by Ti-Pere and only offered to adults, this carnival drink mixes brandy, vodka, sherry and port...Surely a shot to warm you up and keep you going until the sun sets!
For more information about Carnaval de Québec be sure to check out the official homepage for the event.