Make French Come Alive!

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By Mary Clements

Les carnivals d’hivers de février: A celebration of winter and Francophone heritage in Canada

Ah, February. The month of love, of St. Valentine’s day and also Groundhog Day. For many, this is also the month when we face the coldest weeks of winter, and it can be very hard on our mental health, especially if we celebrate holidays like Christmas, New Years or even the Lunar New Year. However, before it was St Valentine’s month, pagan/ pre-Christian religions from Europe used to celebrate winter and Imbolc, a festival that celebrated winter, fire and a call for the warmth of spring.
Many European settlers brought these traditions from Europe and, while many centuries have passed, we can still see the remnants of this festivity in Canada today connecting francophone culture in Canada.

Le Carnaval de Québec ! Le Carnaval d’hiver! 

Each year during the first two weeks of February, Québec gets ready for its first celebrations of the year. The carnival celebrates winter and its many beautiful wonders, which offers a nice perspective on what can usually be a difficult season for many. The carnival dates from 1894, but it became a yearly tradition in 1955, as a way to attract more tourists to visit the province and Quebec city, also known as la capitale de la neige (or the snow capital).

Le Bonhomme (short for bonhomme de neige, or “snowman”) is the beloved mascot of the carnival. His first appearance was on January 9th, 1955, during the first Carnaval d’Hiver. This year, the Carnaval was celebrated from Feb 3rd until Feb 12th.

Le festival du voyageur in Manitoba

For many people when they think of Canadian French their minds immediately goto Quebec however did you know there are over 1 million French-speaking Canadians living in other parts of Canada?  Outside of Quebec, there are many francophone communities in all provinces, each with unique traditions and celebrations.

In Manitoba, one of the main celebrations is the Festival du Voyageur. This is a festival that happens in the city of Saint Boniface. Very similar to Québec’s Carnaval, it celebrates music and the francophone heritage of Manitoba. This festival takes place for 10 days and is considered one of the greatest Francophone festivals of the Canadian West! It first debuted in 1970 and it’s one of the peak events of the year in Manitoba.

Along with various music and arts events, one of the main attractions is the snow sculpture contest that happens each year. In fact, Léo la Tuque, the festival’s mascot, was first born as a snow sculpture during the festival in 1972 ! You can click here to see some cool sculptures from previous years.

Le bal de neige in Ottawa

This is yet another Canadian festival that not only celebrates French-Canadian culture but also our love for winter and snow! It usually goes until mid-February and is a Festival that combines music from local artists, art shows and spectacular Ice Sculptures in Downtown Ottawa. These sculptures are created by artist delegations from each province and territory, Similarly to it’s cousins, it was created in 1979 with the goal of celebrating Canada’s unique winter weather and to share in traditions from elders who would gather to spend time together during the long winter months.