Why check out the Quebec Winter Carnival?
For more than 60 years the Quebec Winter Carnival has been delighting locals and visitors alike annually, encouraging all to eat, drink and be merry as they celebrate the joys of the season. The event strives to deliver a top-notch winter event that the province is always proud of.
Although the Quebec Winter Carnival has been an annual event for over 60 years, its roots trace back to the 19th century. The carnival began when inhabitants of the French colony started the tradition of getting together just before Lent, starting the popular custom of celebrating from the end of January through mid-February.
Held in Quebec City, the Winter Carnival provides everyone some respite from the oftentimes harsh winters and gives them a chance to revel in entertainment and frivolity.
Each winter, the Quebec Winter Carnival sees an increasingly enriched activity programs including winter sports, snow sculptures and cultural activities like dogsled and canoe races.
Today, the Quebec Winter Carnival is the largest of its kind on the world and ranks third on a list of top carnivals, following those in Rio and New Orleans.
The Carnival has seen sparkling success bringing winter events and activities to families, couples or friends who want to enjoy the magic of the season. You'll find a wonderful balance of history and modernity, culture and national heritage and plenty of fun for all throughout the 17 days of the Carnival.
What can you expect from the Quebec Winter Carnival?
From the very start, you'll immediately feel the party atmosphere. On opening night, you're invited to kick off the festivities right as you dance the night away in the thrilling Carnival atmosphere.
On the first weekend, check out the Snowcross Competition, which is part of the biggest snowmobile racing circuit in Canada - the Canadian Snowcross Racing Association. Thrill seekers and racing enthusiasts will love seeing some 200 amateur and professional racers brave the circuit specially designed for this occasion. Choose a favourite and cheer them on!
The second weekend brings more races. There will be the legendary canoe race that's been held since the first ever Carnival, and is still a treat to see to this day. Each year, brave teams take on one another on riding along the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Levis. There will also be the St. Hubert Sleigh Race at Place George V, which provides new scenery this year for this event. Chariot-style races fly down a course filled with obstacles as the best drivers in the province complete with European drivers in a race against the clock.
On Saturday night of the second weekend, don't miss the First Night Parade at Charlesbourg. Marvel at the 15 float sequences with amazing dance troupes showing off their skills. Marching bands excite the audience with catchy tunes. You also won't want to miss the international snow sculpture event. This unique medium is a sight to see and the event draws sculptors from around the world.
The third and final weekend brings the daring event: the snow bath. Eighty brave and adventurous men and women brave the freezing cold, guarded only by their bathing suits! Watch with amazement as each takes three quick dips into the snow with shorts breaks in between. With each return to the powder, they meet the snow with renewed energy and vigor, wowing witnesses with their ability to conquer the winter wonderland.
The Second Night Parade will take place up town with another dazzling show of floats, dancers and marching bands bringing much holiday cheer and excitement to all the parade passes by. If you couldn't make it the first weekend, this gives you the chance to be a part of the parade fun.
Quebec Winter Festival © Pierre Laurin on Flickr
In case you missed it, or if you loved it so much you want to see it again, the international snow sculpture event will still be going on through the third weekend. You'll see the Plains of Abraham transformed into a giant outdoor museum displaying amazing frozen works of art.
One of the most popular parts of the event is the Bonhomme Carnaval, which has given the Quebec Winter Carnival international fame throughout the years. The centre of the Bonhomme Carnaval is the living replica of a snowman that enchants the young and the young of heart, reminding them of the magic of the season.
For the 2014 event the duchesses will be back and during the Opening Night Snow the Queen of the Carnival will be crowned. In the past 42 years, more than 12,000 women have applied to to becomes a duchess and possible queen, but each year only seven duchesses are chosen to represent the seven sectors of the Quebec region. Women who apply write a letter explaining why they wanted to be duchess, then they perform a variety of tasks.
Afterward, the seven finalists are chosen. At the beginning of the Quebec Winter Carnival, the queen will be randomly elected based on how many candles are sold in different areas of the city. Carnival candles provide a source of fundraising for the event and can be purchased. If you buy a candle you could win a variety of prizes.
Celebrate Bonhomme, the Quebec Winter Carnival Mascot
Each year a magical ice palace is built for Bonhomme, the Carnival's mascot, who was also the guest of honour during the first official event. The impressive structure even had a dungeon that was used to jail people in jest who refused to honour Bonhomme's effigy. From 1956 through 1972 the ice palace was built at Place d'Youville, but in 1973 it was moved opposite Quebec Parliament. In 2012 it was moved again to the Plains of Abraham. At the palace, crowds gather to celebrate and enjoy the special lighting and exciting entertainment for the occasion.
The Plains of Abraham are also turned into a huge playground to please Carnival-goers of all ages. Ride the Ferris wheel and take in the stunning bird's eye views of of the event.
Kids will love the kids zone where they can meet silly mascots and the whole family can enjoy watching ice tobogganing, dogsled races and much more.
Be sure to dress the part like Bonhomme, donning your red outfit and arrowhead sash. Make your own music with your long red trumpets, cheering on carnival-goers along parade routes. Parents and adults can stay warm sipping on Caribou. It's sure to keep you toasty!
No matter if you're travelling with your family, you're on a romantic getaway with your sweetheart or you're hanging out with good friends, the Quebec Winter Carnival is a wonderful experience for people of all ages and is sure to spark the excitement of the season in each person that visit.