Bonhomme: Canada's Snowman
By Aaron Zaretsky
A snowman is a symbol of the holidays with a storied history. For example, a 19-year-old Michelangelo in 1494 sculpt a snowman in his mansion’s courtyard History of the Snowman. But, did you know that there is a Canadian snowman? Bonhomme Carnaval is Québec’s winter carnival snowman ambassador. Below is a brief history of Bonhomme, where it came from, and the impact on Québec.
Bonhomme Carnaval originated from Quebec City in November 1954, when a couple of businessmen decided to give a snowman a personality – more than just three stacked snowballs, button eyes, and a carrot nose. The name Bonhomme is French generic term for a figure; bonhomme de neige, “snowman.” He is seven feet high, weighing in at 400 pounds of pure snow, wearing a red tuque and multicoloured arrow sash. Bonhomme is also fluent in French, English and Spanish.
A year later, Bonhomme became the carnival ambassador of the Carnaval de Quebec – a winter wonderland established in 1894 and at one point was the largest in the world. Organizers saw something special in Bonhomme and they put endless time and energy into working on his speaking skills, slick dance moves and big warm hugs. A unique snowman, one with both charisma and heart, Bonhomme is Québec’s answer to Santa Claus, and just as beloved.
For the past 60 years, Bonhomme’s impact in Québec is significant. For many people, they associate Québec City with Bonhomme as he and the Carnaval de Québec became interwoven in Québec’s culture. A few years ago, the Carnaval de Québec drew more than 520,000 spectators! Bonhomme makes almost 1,000 appearances a year spreading joy to millions including sick children in hospitals. Also, there is a Bonhomme song that children in French-speaking schools learn in kindergarten.
So, do you want to build a snowman?