The Quebec Winter Carnival

During the winter, Quebec is a province of snow. Quebec City averages about 120 inches of snow per year and averages 141 days where there is at least a centimetre of snow cover. It may not be so bad these days with better insulation and heating in our houses, but a couple hundred years ago, winter was full of hardships.

Following perhaps in Samuel Champlain’s example of the “Order of Good Cheer” which helped to keep the first little colony at Port Royal entertained and fed during the long winter months, the habitants of New France held a time of eating, drinking, and being merry just before Lent.

The first organized Carnival was held in 1894, and was then held on and off due to world events over the next half century. In an attempt to strengthen the economy of Quebec City, the Carnival was brought back as an annual tradition in 1954.

The Bonhomme Carnaval, the big and jolly snowman, was made the mascot of the carnival, as a way of encouraging “joie de vivre”. Every year an ice castle is built for him, and the mayor gives him the keys to the city. He then goes about spreading joy and happiness.


Photograph by Robert Lafond

The Ice Castle is built differently every year with something like 300 tonnes of ice.


Photograph by Trevor Bobowick

There are heaps of other activities to participate in: a giant slide, snow tubing, giant foosball, sleigh rides, skating, snow sculpturing, ice fishing, a canoe race, a dogsled race, and if you are really brave you might want to dress in your bathing suit and have a snow bath. There are also night parades to watch, snow sculptures to see and of course, a tour of the Ice Castle.

Ville de Quebec

Photograph by Morgan

Watch a short movie about the Carnival from 1956.

Notebook Page: Quebec Carnival

Activities: If you have snow, then you can go out and have your own carnival – make a big snowman, toboggan down a hill, create a snow or ice castle, go skating, or maybe even go snow bathing… and then come inside for a Beavertail and a cup of hot chocolate!

Recipe for Beavertails: Allrecipes

If you don’t have snow, well then you will have to pretend. Cut some snowflakes out of paper and tape them to the windows. Or you could make a huge 3D snowflake using this idea from Instructibles. Make a snowman out of marshmallows using this idea from Flexible Dreams.

And finally, to add some Quebec flair, make some poutine for supper. Here is a recipe from Seasons and Suppers.


Abstract in Quebec

Abstract art is art that is usually not based on realism but rather on colour, shapes, brushstrokes, size, and scale. It does not depict something in the real world but something in the artists’ imagination. It can be a way of portraying emotions and feelings rather than things.


Fete aux lanternes chez les Sioux by Edmund Alleyn (1931-2004), Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal


Accelerateur chromatique by Claude Tousignant, Contemporary Art Galleries Association

I was not able to get permission to use the artwork of the artists below on this post, but the following links will take you to examples of their artwork which are worth viewing.

Foret et Reverie by Nada Kyriakos

Something’s Fishy by Glenna Tissenbaum

Notebook Page: Abstract in Quebec

Activity: Colour is often used to reflect emotions. For example, red is often used to represent strength, green can be used for harmony, blue for calmness, and yellow for confidence. You can also consider how lines can be used to create feelings – horizontal lines may feel calm, vertical lines may feel inspirational, zigzags may create a feeling of uncertainty, curvy lines may feel pleasant…

Think about what kind of feelings you want to create with your artwork and then create your own abstract painting using this Deep Space Sparkle lesson.

Filles du Roi

Arrival of the Brides - Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

The population of New France grew very slowly in the forty years after Champlain brought the first colonists to Quebec. There weren’t that many newcomers, and attacks by the Iroquois had taken its toll. As well, the fur trade was not increasing the welfare of the colony due to the company’s interest in itself rather than the colony. France also, had become caught up in other matters and had seemingly forgotten about New France.

However, when Louis XIV came into his 20’s and took control of the government, he began a reform of France and that included New France. He sent out soldiers, settlers, labourers, a new governor, an intendant, a viceroy, and supplies.

The soldiers were able to bring about peace between the Iroquois and New France which restored order and harmony in the little colony.

The new intendant was a man named Jean Talon. He realized that in order for the colony to grow, a shift had to take place from the fur trade to agriculture and industry. He also recognized that there was a need to bring more women over to increase the likelihood of the colony growing in the future.

He sent to France and between 1663 and 1673 about 850 young women were carefully selected, many being orphans from the King’s charitable institutions. They were given free passage and a hope chest full of items they would require in the new land. When they arrived, they were usually married immediately or put with families who would care for them until they were. These women were called “Filles du Roi” or The King’s Daughters.

It would have been difficult for many of them to adjust to their new life, as many of them were from cities and had little knowledge of manual farm work. But most of them did, and many of them in all likelihood, lived longer and better lives in the new colony than they would have at home.

To encourage marriage and the birth of children, various policies were put in place to provide extra money for those who married and an increasing amount with each child. And the methods worked well. In ten years, the population of New France doubled and continued to grow from then onwards.

lostinthesnowIf you are able to find this at your library or have it at home, read “Lost in the Snow” in the Canadian Flyer series by Frieda Wishinsky.

Notebook Page: Filles du Roi

Activity: The women who came to New France would have had to know or find out how to do most things by themselves such as making clothing, looking after farm animals, decorating and cleaning their homes, and growing their own food and preparing it, etc. Today we take it for granted that we can buy most everything we need, already prepared from a store. So, for this week, there are a few choices: