While most people try to escape the cold and head somewhere warm during the winter months, I was given the opportunity to do the exact opposite! I was recently invited out to Quebec City to experience Carnaval de Québec (#MonCarnaval)…and best of all – meet a Bonhomme himself!
The first large winter Carnaval de Québec in Quebec City, the world’s snow capital, took place in 1894. Often faced with winter’s hardships, the city’s population reinvented this popular tradition with a winter celebration that warmed up the hearts of all of it revellers.
“Come to Quebec City,” they said.
“It’ll be fun,” they said.
“Just dress appropriately,” they said.
After going for dinner on my first night in Quebec City, I realized just how wrong I was. I was wrong. So utterly and completely wrong that it was semi-embarrassing.
I visited Carnaval de Québec from Feburary 11 – 14, 2016. During this time, the average temperature ranges from about -5°C to -14°C. But keep in mind…it can go much lower. And did it ever! During my stay in Quebec City the temperature was consistently around -26°C.
Before the windchill.
— Jenn (@JennAndTheCity) February 12, 2016
Oh, and on my first morning there, I woke to a city covered in snow…and snow still falling. Which while beautiful in its own right, I realized that I clearly didn’t pack appropiate footwear. So, needless to say I needed to improvise, and one of the very first things I did was go out and buy proper winter boots. Luckily for me all the stores were having massive sales and I got my fancy new kicks at 60% off!
My friends at Quebec Tourism put together an awesome press pack for me that I got as soon as I checked into my room. Not only were those warming packs you see above in it, but also an official Carnaval de Québec sash.
One of the key features of Carnaval de Québec is the sash. This sash is a tribute to Amerindian culture and has remained a symbol among Quebécois, especially during Carnaval de Québec. Way back in the day, in the 19th century, this sash/belt was used to help fight off the brutal cold weather by being used to cinch ones jacket at the waist to prevent the chill creeping in. The sash is still an important symbol during the Carnaval de Québec, and is also a key component to Bonhomme‘s outfit. He wears it tied on his left side, because it’s closer to his heart that way.
photo credit: carnaval.qc.ca
Carnaval de Québec is not only well known here in Canada, but it is becoming quite a popular destination for visitors from around the world. During the 17 day Carnaval de Québec, the sites get more than 500,000 visits.
Whether you visit solo – like I did, make it a romantic getaway, or even bring the whole family – you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself at Carnaval de Québec. There is no shortage of things to do!
photo credit: carnaval.qc.ca
Ensure you’re wearing your warmest gear (thank you Canada Goose for keeping me warm all weekend) and spend the day exploring everything the Carnaval de Québec has to offer. Want to ride a zip line? Go for it! Take a romantic ride on the ferris wheel and get an aerial view of the grounds? Yup, you can do that. Want to embrace your inner child and race down a luge? Bundle up and have fun!
One of the must-see Carnaval de Québec attractions is the evening parade though. There are, on average, 160,000 + visitors for the parade alone which showcases impressive floats, marching bands, dance troupes and, of course, Bonhomme Carnaval and his Duchesses.
Bonhomme was my Valentine
Bonhomme is a celebrity in his own right. Once he arrives, the Mayor of Québec gives him the keys to the city, making him the undisputed master of the kingdom.
Growing up in Canada, I remember hearing about Bonhomme when I was a kid. I was always enthralled by him and simply couldn’t control my excitement when I finally met him face to face!
Since 1955, the date of the first annual edition of the Carnaval de Québec, Bonhomme Carnaval has personified the “joie de vivre” associated with this winter celebration. According to a recent Leger Marketing study, he is a figure recognized by 96% of Quebecers and about 60% of Canadians.
Learn more about Bonhomme
First name: Bonhomme
Last name: Carnaval
Date of birth: 1954
City of birth: Quebec City
Height: 7 feet
Weight: 400 pounds of compacted snow
Favourite colours: White and red
Favourite little treats: Ice cream and sorbet
Distinctive movement: The leg raise
Best friends: Winter fans
Childhood friend: Santa Claus
Greatest quality: Joie de vivre
Famous words: Happy Carnival!
Biggest dream: Eliminate climate change
Notoriety: Public personality people spontaneously associate with Québec City
When it’s -50 C, and you’re offered a glass of Caribou – TAKE IT. But, don’t chug it. LOL Take the glass, but take your time with it. I promise, it is not a glass of the animal…at Carnaval de Québec, Caribou = booze. It’s sweet, but deadly! It’s at blend of red wine or port…with brandy, vodka and usually local maple syrup. It’ll warm you from the inside out and if you’re anything like me, it’ll give a case of the giggles.
Fun fact: According to legend, the original recipe was a mix if brandy and caribou blood! Hence the name, Caribou.
— Jenn (@JennAndTheCity) February 14, 2016