So What if its Cold— get out there and join the Quebec Winter Carnival

By Ben Hamill - February 19 2015
Quebec Winter Carnival

The Quebec Winter Carnival is still running.  It will end on 15 February so you still have time to take part in the festivities.

The Quebec Winter Carnival has been going on for 60 years!  Its goal is to celebrate winter in a first-rate manner so that it will attract tourists and Quebecers alike.  The Quebec Winter Carnival came from a long-held tradition of the French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec to have a rowdy, yet controlled, celebration before the somber month of Lent.

A winter carnival was first held in Quebec in 1894.  Because of the World Wars and the Depression, it was held on-and-off until 1954.   Then a group of enterprising businessmen decided to revitalize the concept and the present-day Quebec Winter Carnival was born.

The Quebec Winter Carnival has grown over the years and now has many corporate sponsors.  But the mood and the events themselves bely the staidness of the corporate world.  This is a great winter carnival, the largest in the world!

A Little History

Before we give some details of the program of the last few days, we would like to highlight some interesting and historical events of the last 30 years.

  • In 1986, women’s teams participated in the canoe race.
  • The same year there was so much snow that the candle draw was postponed.
  • In 1987 the snow bath made its debut.  Intrepid souls don swimming suits and get buried in the snow!
  • In 1988, Hollywood takes notice of the Winter Carnaval as several celebrities take part.
  • A woman becomes President of the Carnival for the first time in 1989.
  • In 1990 Place des Enfants moves to the Plains of Abraham and is renamed Place de la Familie.
  • In 1992, the International Snow Sculpture competition moves to the Plains of Abraham.
  • In 1997 the duchies are replaced by the bonhomries as the carnival moves to being more family-oriented.
  • The knuks appear for the first time.  They are sprightly elves from the north whose cheeky antics delight young and old.
  • By 2002, the emphasis had shifted to interactive activities.
  • 2003 was and still is the coldest carnival on record.
  • Quebec City celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008 and the first celebration was held at the Winter Carnival with a special parade.
  • In 2011 a Ferris wheel was set up and despite the wintry winds and chill, everyone who went up was thrilled at the site of Quebec in winter.
  • Bonhomme’s Palace was moved to the Plains of Abraham in 2012 giving revelers a place to dance at the center of the carnival.

The Effigy

You need to wear the effigy to gain entrance to the carnival.  It is a badge and can be bought for $15 online or at the site.

Bonhomme Carnival

This is a roving character central to the theme of the carnival.  Bonhomme Carnival is one of the Quebecer symbols of winter.  The statue of Bonhomme stands 7 feet tall and is composed of 400 pounds of compacted snow.


The auction helps raise money for the carnival.  This year, the auction will be held daily through 12 Feb.

Bonhomme’s Winterland

Everyone is invited to join Bonhomme on the Plains of Abraham for a full daily schedule of winter activities.

Bonhomme’s Palace is open every day from morning until late evening.  There are six rooms including a childrens’ play area and gym and the museum room.

Saint-Jean Street

This street, in the Faubourg District is closed to traffic as play takes over.  At this location is a friendly hockey tournament and pedal car races.

Skating with Bonhomme

Bonhomme comes out to skate with the public every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:00-7:45 pm.

Bumper Cars

There’s still plenty of time to match your bumping skill with Bumper Cars on ice.

SAQ Queen’s Ball

This ball will be held on Friday until the wee hours.  It is for adults only, of course and has a special entry fee of $250 plus tax.

Pee-Wee Hockey

The Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament will take place at the carnival from Wednesday through Sunday with games continuing from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm.

Snow Bath

The ritual immersion in snow is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm.  Participants are expected to brave the elements for only a few minutes as the crowd encourages them.

Night Parade

Saturday night from 7:00 until 9:00 pm the night parade will take place in Old Quebec.  The public is invited to bring their drums and trumpets!  This is a don’t -miss event as it in no way resembles the staid parades that frequent the streets of Manhattan!

St.-Hubert Sleigh Ride

This is a horse racing competition.  Admission is free for spectators.

Closing Ceremonies

Bonhomme waves good-bye until next year on Sunday at 2:30 pm.  The carnival officially ends Sunday night.

And Much More

This was just a short description of the Quebec Winter Carnival.  There is much more than we could cover.  We hope you find the time and the means to spend some time in Quebec City between now and Sunday.