Our history

Carnival Traditions

Red clothes, the arrow sash, physical activity, Bonhomme’s Effigy and the little caribou shot to get in the mood are all time-honored traditions going back to the origin of the Carnival, and sometimes earlier.

The Arrow Sash

The Carnival helped the arrow sash remain a part of Quebec society to this day. In the 19th century, the arrow sash was used to fasten clothing around the waist and prevent cold air from seeping in. It also supported the back during effort.

Many believe fléché weaving was inherited from native populations, but it really is a blend of two techniques: native-style braiding and French-Canadian weaving. The base chevron pattern of the fléché, however, is universal.

Get your arrow sash today!

Salut Bonhomme song

 

The Trumpet

Nothing improves the ambiance of the Carnival Night Parades more than these long red or blue trumpets! Come on, put on your red coat, your arrow sash and your tuque—in Quebec City, festivities are part of our DNA!

Get your trumpet today!

Did you know...

The Carnival trumpet can produce sound up to 144 decibels?

History

There’s a long history of celebrations lasting from late January to mid-February in Quebec City. In the worldwide capital of snow, the first large-scale winter carnival took place in 1894. These festivities helped a population often faced with harsh winters to warm their hearts during the cold season. The Carnival would go on to resurface every once in a while until the second half of the century, interrupted by events such as both world wars and the Great Depression.

In 1954, a group of Quebec City businessmen decided to bring the Carnival back to further the economic development of the region. The first edition of the modern Quebec Winter Carnival took place in 1955, and Bonhomme was chosen as the event’s representative. Very soon, the Carnival became a must-see for the local population and a crucial driver of tourism in the city. Through the years, the Carnival enhanced its program with many winter sports and activities inspired from the traditional Québécois way of life.

To this day, the Quebec Winter Carnival is a major winter event and an engine driving the Quebec economy and lifestyle.

1894
1894

Timmons, a cider and carbonated beverage manufacturer, has its float ready for the 1894 parade on the côte d’Abraham.

1928
1928

In the winter of 1928, the Club Automobile de Québec was understandably proud of the ice sculpture in front of its offices, on the corner of rue Buade and rue des Jardins.

1940
1940

On a beautiful sunny afternoon in 1940, a dog handler trains his dog team for a race near the Château Frontenac.

1954
1954

Bundled up in warm clothing, the founders of the Carnival proudly wear their arrowhead sashes as snow falls on Quebec City. Louis-Philippe Plamondon in the middle, Wilbrod Bherer on his right and Louis Paré on his left.

1955
1955

First edition of the contemporary Quebec Winter Carnival. Creation of the Effigy. Bonhomme Carnaval makes his appearance surrounded by Duchesses; the one who sells the most tickets is proclaimed Queen of the Carnival. Until 1972, the Ice Palace was built at place D’Youville.

1957

The Quebec City area is divided into seven Duchies, each headed by a Duchess. The Duchy that sells the most tickets wins its Duchess the title of Queen of the Carnival.

1958
1958

The ice canoe race takes place under the worst conditions in the history of this classic. Only 4 of the 21 teams make it to the finish line.

1959
1959

A new concept was created to replace raffle tickets: the Carnival Candle. For the first time, the Queen is elected after a random draw. The Soapbox Derby is now part of the program.

1960
1960

In 1960, the first Carnivalesque Street is born.

1961

The first Barrel Jumping Competition takes place. Motorcycle Races on the ice were held occasionally until 1997.

1962
1962

In 1962, Bonhomme's Ice Palace stood out thanks to a futuristic look. Word has it that the designer, architect André Robitaille, was inspired by a photograph of an iceberg taken in 1908 by Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier during one of his expeditions to the far north. The first Carnival workshops were built on rue Joly.

1963
1963

Barrel Jumping, a sport now relegated to the history books, was part of the Carnival until the late 1980s. In 1963, the Queen was chosen outdoors for the first time as the Crowning took place at the exhibition grounds race track. Never before had the Carnival attracted such huge crowds.

1964
1964

The name "Bonhomme Carnaval" and his image become registered trademarks. Voûtes Chez Ti-Père opens on rue Sainte-Thérèse.

1965

Creation of Place Carnaval at Lower Town's parc Victoria, where many activities would be held. A Grand Prix Auto Race was held until 1978, and then again from 1984 to 1994. From this year until 1995, 18 Chess Tournaments would take place. The Order of Bonhomme is created.

1966
1966

A team of women takes part in the Canoe Race for the first time. In the summer, thousands of families received a questionnaire as the Carnival launched its first public consultation. This exercise was repeated the following year. The Order of the Duchesses is created.

1967

Following public consultations, the Crowning of the Queen once again features a light show.

1968

The Carnival refers to this edition as the “Carnival of Innovations” in its annual report. This year featured the creation of inter-duchy games, the return of old activities like the Regency Ball, the Children's Floats Parade and the large Bonfire on the Plains of Abraham.

1969
1969

Bonhomme visits the Institut Saint-Joseph in Lévis.

1970

A new tradition is born: closing the event with a fireworks display. From this year until 1993, Snowmobile Races would be held sporadically. Bonhomme Carnaval becomes the Carnival's ambassador, traveling worldwide to promote the event.

1971
1971

The 1971 Ice Palace. The Carnival had to deal with many snowstorms that year. The Crowning of the Queen was broadcast for the first time, live from the Grand Théâtre, which had just opened.

1972

From this point on, Gregorian calendar holidays are no longer the basis of the Carnival schedule. For instance, it now ends on a Sunday evening rather than on Mardi Gras.

1973
1973

The Ice Palace is built at the Esplanade, in front of Parliament Building, rather than at place D’Youville. The Esplanade also hosts the first International Snow Sculpture Competition, featuring teams from Quebec, France, the USA and Japan.

1974
1974

At the 1973 and 1974 Carnivals, Bobino (Guy Sanche) and Bobinette, characters from the beloved children’s TV show Passe-Partout, offer four shows at the Quebec City Armoury. Bobinette wears a full Bonhomme Carnaval disguise, complete with a red tuque and arrow sash.

1975
1975

Bonhomme draws cheers from the crowd at the ceremonial puck drop of a Nordiques game. Creation of the Winter Break, which invites companies to give their employees time off from noon to midnight on Carnival Fridays. This event would last until 1986. An Inuit team takes part to the Snow Sculpture Contest for the first time.

1976

The first Speed Skating Championship, which would be held until 1992.

1977

The Carnival featured the Children’s Sculpture Competition from this year until 1991.

1978

Bonhomme goes to Poste-de-la-Baleine (renamed Kuujjuarapik in 1980), on the shores of Hudson Bay, to visit Inuit winners of the of the previous International Snow Sculpture Competition.

1979
1979

From this point until 1992, Bonhomme's Palace was made of snow due to the lack of an ice supplier in the area.

1980

Creation of two new Carnival sites: Place des enfants (a first winter playground dedicated to children) and Place du Manège (for Carnival get-togethers, such as social and public gatherings).

1981
1981

The 1981 Ice Palace. The Eccentric Hairstyle Contest persists until 1991.

1982

Bonhomme goes to Acapulco, Mexico, to represent the Carnival and Quebec City during a tourism industry conference.

1983

Until 1994, the wax candle is replaced by a “scratch-and-win” candle similar to a lottery ticket. First Night Parade in Charlesbourg.

1984

The Carnival celebrates its 30th anniversary.

1985

First edition of the Business Leaders’ Luncheon.

1986

The Carnival Candle winning numbers' draw is postponed due to abundant snowfall. From this year onwards, teams of women take part to the Canoe Race.

1987

The Snow Bath joins the program.

1988

Several Hollywood celebrities visit the Carnival: international media coverage increases.

1989

For the first time, a woman is president of the Carnival.

1990

Place des enfants moves from parc Cartier-Brébeuf to the Plains of Abraham and becomes Place de la famille.

1991

All Carnival activity ceases on rue Sainte-Thérèse. It's the end of an era.

1992

The International Snow Sculpture Competition moves to the Plains of Abraham.

1993

The Palace is once again built of ice rather than snow.

1994

The Carnival celebrates its 40th anniversary.

1995

The classic wax Candle is back.

1996

Carnival managers choose to aim the festivities at the general public, with an emphasis on families. Activities are grouped together on two major sites: the Esplanade, in front of Parliament Building, and the Plains of Abraham.

1997

The move to a family-oriented Carnival begins. The Ducheses and Queen disappear, and Duchies become Bonhommies.

1998
1998

The Knuks, mischievous jokers from the north, are seen for the first time. These cheeky characters are talented magicians, dancers and pranksters. The Carnival now has a title sponsor.

1999
1999

The human resources department is created to improve management of volunteers (recruitment, training, recognition activities), among other goals.

2000

A third permanent site opens at place D’Youville. The Carnival decides to manage its own merchandise. The expertise of the Carnival Workshops makes allows them to accept external contracts.

2001

The Carnival seeks to become the reference for winter festivals in North America.

2002

The program centers more on interactive activities (Giant Foosball, Ice Fishing, Snow Sculptures). Creation of the Confrérie des Bretelliers de la Bougie.

2003
2003

Despite the coldest temperatures on record in the ten years, the 2003 edition was a great success.

2004

The Carnival celebrates its 50th anniversary.

2008

The Carnival is the very first event to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. A new Parade is specially created for the occasion.

2010
2010

The Carnival concentrates its activities on two main sites: Place Desjardins and Place Loto-Québec. Place Hydro-Québec is replaced by a huge outdoors stage on the Plains of Abraham, the Hydro-Québec Stage, where many shows are presented.

2011
2011

A ferris wheel is set up at the heart of the festivities: Place Desjardins, on the Plains of Abraham. Fabulous views for all visitors!

2012
2012

Bonhomme’s Ice Palace moves to Place Desjardins, by all other activities. In the Palace's huge igloo-like dome, people can dance in a festive atmosphere!

2013
2013

The LUMOCITÉ project, a projection mapping initiative, lights up four buildings near city center. A large Bonhomme statue in front Parliament building and the Festibière beer festival are among the novelties.

2014
2014

The Carnival celebrates its 60th anniversary by bringing the Duchesses back after 18 years of absence. The new Duchies follow the borders of Quebec City's boroughs. Bonhomme's Ice Palace is once again built in front of Parliament Building, and for the first time, the public gets to visit Bonhomme’s quarters. Eight Carnivalesque Streets join a festive circuit.

2015
2015

Bonhomme’s Winterland settles on the Plains of Abraham. Bulles, Whisky & Cie is held for the first time, to great success. The Night Parades are renewed with a northern theme.

Bonhomme stamp red 3fbbf5c06d6b6796087a4cbf6b21579ee7176cc29768458d6fca9d84c283778d

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