Bonnehomme Carnaval


Arriving at the airport in Quebec City, I can’t resist a photo with a familiar character.

Bonnehomme Fun Facts

To most Canadians, Bonnehomme is as familiar as Santa Claus and he’s immediately linked with Carnaval, Quebec’s unbeatable way to warm up the winter.  But did you know these little known Bonnehomme facts?

There is only one Bonnehomme. Unlike Santa, there are no spurious versions wandering the streets of Quebec.

Bonnehomme has travelled the world promoting his city’s famous Carnaval.

Despite the rumours, he is not related to Frosty, though Santa was a childhood friend.

He turns 65 next year but hasn’t added a single wrinkle, proof positive that winter cold is good for the complexion.

Bonnehomme is bilingual, and always smiling and ready to take a picture, especially with children.

You can meet him in person every year during Carnaval in Quebec City (end of January to mid-February).

Quebec City adds these fun facts:

First name: Bonhomme
Last name: Carnaval
Year of birth: 1954
City of birth: Quebec City
Height: 7 feet
Weight: 400 pounds of compacted snow
Favourite colors: White and red
Favourite treats: Ice cream and sorbet
Distinctive motion: Lifing his leg
Best friends: Fans of winter!
Greatest quality: Joie de vivre
Famous words: Joyeux Carnaval!
Biggest dream: Reverse global warming
Notoriety: Public personality most spontaneously associated with Quebec City

You can meet Bonnehomme in person every year during Carnaval in Quebec City which usually begins near the end of January and runs until mid-February. Want to know more about Carnaval? Visit here.

Joyeux Carnaval!

Joyeux Carnaval! Bonnehome and me

Bonnehomme Carnaval and I posing in the eerie light of this year’s Ice Palace. Take a tour further down.

If there’s one thing Canadians know, it’s how the make the best of winter. But Quebec has perfected the art of making it fun.

No matter how cold it gets, hibernation is not an option. Instead, Carnaval, the largest winter carnival in Canada and one of the oldest in the world (it began in 1894) takes a bite out of frosty February.

Joyeux Carnaval! Ice Palace

The Ice Palace by day. Note the verdigris copper roof of the historic Citadel in the background and in front, the Ice Bar sponsored by SAQ (Quebec’s liquor board).

Carnaval fills every available park space in Quebec City with snow sculpture competitions, games, ice bars, toboggan runs, children’s activities, and more. And there are races – on snow, on ice, on snow AND ice, and even on ice and water (the ice canoe races are an extraordinary test of skill, endurance and insanity).

Joyeux Carnaval Ice canoe races.

The festivities kick off with the selection of the Carnival queen at Bonnehomme’s ice palace. From seven duchesses representing different Quebec regions, one is crowned. No gowns or bathing suits here – it’s done by drawing their names out of a barrel and the first to have her name drawn five times wins. The girls are all pretty and definitely enthusiastic, but what a kick in the eye to traditional beauty pageants.

Joyeux Carnaval Crowning the queen

The queen is crowned at the Ice Palace

Of course, Bonnehomme is on hand, pumping up the audience with each name drawn from the barrel. Who is Bonnehomme, you ask? Since 1955, this cheerful white snowman, sporting a red tuque and red arrow sash, has been the symbol of Quebec City’s Carnaval. To learn more, check the little list of fun facts here

Bonnehomme’s ice palace is reconstructed each year – a massive confection of glistening blocks of ice designed by artisan sculptor, Marc Lepire. This year, the interior is surreal. Mixing sound, lights and projections, Odyss Land of Ice, offers a stunning interactive experience, which allows visitors to add to the symphony of sound or get silly and throw balls through the holes in the ice wall…or can they? It’s all so much fun that the cold is forgotten in the excitement.

Joyeux Carnaval! Camp a JosMy favourite area is Camp à Jos, a nostalgic re-creation of the early days of the coureurs de bois. Literally runners of the woods, these French Canadian woodsmen traded with both Europeans and native peoples. Bonnehomme’s outfit is a salute to their traditional warm tuque and colourful sash.

Joyeux Carnaval child throwing an axeCamp à Jos is a family area with games and activities for everyone. Forget bucking broncos, here you can ride a wild moose. And I watch children throwing axes at targets (carefully contained in a safe area). Eventually hunger and cold drive me indoors, to the cosy sausage and beer canteen, where large tables encourage mingling; after all, Carnaval is all about community.

Dessert is easy. At any Cabane à Sucre (Sugar Shack), I happily roll my stick along a ribbon of thick maple syrup in clean snow, creating a delicious lollipop. At this shop, two experts create ready made treats.

The snow sculpture competition is always exciting. There are both National and International categories, and volunteers of the carnival as well as visitors get to vote for their favourites.

Joyeux Carnaval snow sculpting team from BC

A team from British Columbia sculpts their snow block

The winning sculpture, a giant fish with enormous teeth was undoubtedly a technical challenge.

Joyeux Carnaval winning sculpture

The winning sculpture Photo by Frederic Lavoie

But both volunteers and the public gave their thumbs up to the third place winner. Who could resist the humour of the giant boot sticking its tongue out to lick some spilled milk? Or is that milk?

Joyeux Carnaval the boot

the cheeky boot won third place but grabbed both Volunteer and Public awards Phot by Frederic Lavoie

And some of us get to be part of a sculpture.

Joyeux Carnaval me in a sculptureOver the years the always creative roster of activities during Carnaval has included a children’s sculpture competition, snow baths, dogsled races, a soapbox derby, barrel jumping (on skates of course), motorbikes on ice, and more. And don’t forget those crazy ice canoe races.

So grab your warmest clothing and boots and head for the city that never ceases to provide excitement, fun and friendly French charm.

Kanatha-Aki – A Healing Place

My stallion Colos and me. Photo courtesy of Pierre Bessette.

A big brown eye cautiously regards me. I’m stroking his neck, but Colos is a rescue horse who has been mistreated, so he’s not sure about this human. After a few minutes, we make friends, but mounting this gentle giant offers a different challenge; I can’t reach the stirrup without a hand up. He stands patiently as I climb into the saddle in an undignified scramble. Continue reading