If you're taking a trip to Québec before the Lent season begins, the Québec Winter Carnival is a must-do event. World famous, the media spotlight shines on Québec during the dead of winter.
Québec Winter Carnival History
Québec, more so than French culture, bears the marks of its Roman Catholic roots. In many aspects of the Québécois culture you can see the influence of Roman Catholicism and winter carnival is no exception. As early as when the territory was first settled, Québec has hosted a carnival that corresponds with the time right before Lent begins. Before the fasting of Lent, comes the feasting and revelry that is associated with Carnival.
It wasn't until 1954 that Bonhomme made his grand entrance never to leave the Québec Winter Carnival stage again. With the mascot in tow, the winter carnival has yearly updated its activities and events to be considered one of the best carnivals of its type in the world. Although not everyone will care for the temperatures and snow in the dead of winter, the Winter Carnival easily rivals New Orleans' Mardi Gras in attendance, activities, and presence.
Winter Carnival Activities
While the events for each carnival are carefully planned by a committee on a yearly basis, there are a few things that you can always expect to see at the winter carnival in Québec.
International Snow Sculpting Competition
This is probably one of the best known events and it draws a fair amount of international attention all unto itself. Generally working for at least four days, snow sculptures create giant pieces of melting art. Carnival goers can generally watch the sculpting process and tour the pieces once they are finished.
Unlike Mardi Gras, the Winter Carnival is a family friendly event. While there might be a fair share of inebriants in the evening, it is generally contained in certain sections of the sprawling space. Also, most of the family activities take place during the day with a few exceptions. Some traditional favorites include:
- A canoe race down an extra snowy street.
- A life size table soccer game. (Also known as foosball.)
- A giant snow slide.
- Family snow tubing
- Dog sled races and snow dog agility competitions.
If you have a hankering for fresh beaver tails then make your way to Place Desjardins (the middle of the carnival) and ask for one! Rest assured that beaver tails in Canada are a version of fried dough laden with cinnamon and sugar.
Being a Tourist at the Carnival
One thing that's nice about this particular festival is that it gets so much international attention, the organizers of the big event are well equipped to deal with tourists of all nationalities. For the most up to date information, visit the Carnival website. For a more pleasant trip you might want to keep in mind:
- Make your reservations up to a year in advanced!
- Remember that carnival is meant to happen right before Lent, which is not the same time every year. Check your calendar well in advance to make sure you don't miss it.
- Dress for extreme coldness. Temperatures are below freezing and will often be below zero. If you haven't invested in wool socks, before you go is the time to do so.