An age-old Quebec tradition aiming to bring warmth to the dark days of winter — is coming to Nelson on Friday.
Carnaval d’hiver is Nelson’s version of the famous Quebecois winter celebration that first took place over 100 years ago and has been an annual month-long tradition in that province since 1954.
Held at the Trafalgar school grounds, Nelson’s French cultural experience is in year six and for the first time, L.V. Rogers French Immersion Leadership students are participating in organizing the event. Calena Marchand, 17, attended Carnaval in Quebec City two years ago as part of a school trip.
“I’d heard all about Carnaval so I really wanted to experience it for myself. There were so many amazing sculptures and activities like skating. Everyone is outdoors and there’s music playing,” she says. “To have a similar event here is cool.
Nelson’s own Carnaval d’hiver or Winter Carnival will bring many of the fun festival features to locals. Broomball, music and dance, winter games, crafts, and the ever-popular sugar shack — maple syrup hardened on snow — will happen. Bonhomme, the Carnaval mascot will also make an appearance.
Lead organizer Trish Dehnel, with the Canadian Parents for French-Nelson Chapter, remembers going out with her family in the evening to an event at her junior high school.
“I remember it being special and when we first started Carnival, I was drawing on my experience of that evening at school,” she says.
The event has become well received among the community and especially youth recognizing it’s important to embrace the fun of winter this time of year.
“In Canada, we need to celebrate winter,” Dehnel says. “Being out doors and actually enjoying ourselves is important otherwise it can be a long winter.”
As well, sharing French traditions is a great way to draw in the broader community who may have little experience with Canada’s bilingualism.
“We have two official languages and in many parts of the country we only know one of the languages. This is a way we can show that French is a living language,” Dehnel says. “And here are some traditions from another part of the country that we here in the west may not know of.”
Dehnel is pleased to have the LVR students on board and she hopes they continue their involvement for many years to come.
Marchand started French Immersion in Grade 6 and she says practicing language skills at Carnaval, in a fun environment, is good for students just starting their education.
“This way they can practice their French without the structure of the classroom,” she says.
Held at Trafalgar school grounds, Carnaval d’hiver runs from 7 to 9 p.m. It is hosted by Canadian Parents for French-Nelson Chapter, the LVR French Immersion Leadership students, AFKO (francophone association), Trafalgar school and école des Sentiers-alpins.
Fortis BC and Nelson and District Credit Union along side the Province of BC are sponsors.
Hot chocolate is free. The sugar shack costs $2 and comes with a ticket to a door prize.