The Québec Winter Carnival vs. the Portuguese Carnival

on 10:07 pm

Right from the get-go, when the French first colonised New France (what is now Quebec), they created a rowdy tradition of getting together just before Lent to eat, drink and be merry. The custom of celebrating sometime around mid-February has long been popular.

The first officially recognised large winter Carnival in Québec City, however, took place in 1894. Often faced with winter’s hardships, the city's population reinvented the popular tradition of carnival brought from France with a winter celebration that celebrates exactly that - winter. In 1954, in the context of the economic development of Québec City, a group of business people started to commercialise the festivities. That year, Bonhomme (to the right) was born and elected the event’s representative. The first official edition of the Québec Winter Carnival took place the following year, in 1955. Since then, the Carnival has snowballed into an undeniable manifestation for the entire Québec City population, having become an important vehicle for tourism and economical activity in the city. As well, from one winter to the next, the Carnival has enriched its activity program, having added a number of more popular activities that includes winter sports, snow sculptures, and activities based on the traditional Québec lifestyle, such as canoe races and dogsled races. Check out the Ice Palace put up every year below. Today the Québec Winter Carnival is the largest winter carnival in the world, and is third on the list of top carnivals worldwide, after the famous carnivals in Rio and New Orleans.

Ok, now we know that this blog is all about Canadians in Portugal, where these two countries coexist as much as possible. That said ... the Portuguese Carnival. First off, it's worth pointing out that the Portuguese carnivals of yesteryear were not exactly like todays, as missing were the scantily clad dancing girls a la the Brazilian Carnival (we must not forget that at the time of the Carnival in Brazil, it's summer, not exactly the same here, brrrr...). Yes images like the one below are typical to Ovar, Torres Vedras, Loulé and many other carnival-loving Portuguese towns.

The traditional Portuguese Carnival is more about people getting dressed up, often with masks, and making fun of each other and playing tricks on each other. It's also all about mocking public figures like what you see on the left below. Yes that's Cavaco Silva, the Portuguese President of the Republic right up front and former Portuguese PM José Socretes in the back as well. Sometimes, however, public figures themselves show-up to even mock themselves. Yes that's Madeira's Alberto João Jardim below on the right. He's a regular at the Carnival in Funchal year in, year out.

Now this year we all know that Passos Coelho is cutting back on the Carnival. For that reason, this upcoming Tuesday will not be as lively as the rest of the carnival-loving world. So enjoy yourself Québec. Maybe we here in Portugal will join you again next year on a Tuesday, or that year after that, or the year after that, ...

Canadian encounters with wildlife

on 6:54 pm

Canada is full of wildlife, there's little arguing that. In fact, it is quite common for Canadians to encounter their forest friends in their yards, for example, or simply walking down the street. Surely the friendly deer in the front yard, like the one seen below, is always a pleasant and adorable surprise. Look how cute Bambi looks eating the flowers.

Still, not all encounters with the forest creatures are that way. Take, for example, this sort of encounter below. Not really sure if running inside to get some feed is the right thing to do.

Nor is this a good reaction either, as funny as it may look.

Of course this all depends on your relationship with these sorts of animals. I just recently watched the Werner Herzog documentary Grizzly Man about a fellow named Timothy Treadwell who used to live among the grizzlies in Alaska, until one day (I won't spoil the ending for you). But his story is not the only one. Charlie Vendergaw was been living among bears in Alaska for over 20 years and he says it's the bears that search him out ( And then there's Montana native Casey Anderson and his pet grizzly and best buddy Brutus who Anderson raised since the bear was a baby. Here they are together:

Now those who don't know any better would look at Anderson and Brutus and think 'bears are just so cuddly and cute'. Not quite. Wildlife experts will tell you that bear attacks are rare; as long as we avoid them, they'll avoid us. Yes they may be rare, but every year you hear about somebody being mauled, especially so in Canada. Attacks are often for predatory, territorial or protective reasons, or in other words, they often happens due to human encroachment, with victims often being hikers, hunters, and campers, and other times those who take up residency in wilderness areas. In other words, some folks just don't try hard enough to avoid these creatures.

Being brought up in Canada, from an early age we are taught to hit the ground and pretend we are dead if we ever encounter a bear because if we do, this is what the bear's going to think:

If you are in Canada, however, and you do want to start up a relationship with wildlife, it's more then obvious that the moose is your best choice for a companion. If you need evidence, just have a look at these four:

One piece of advice, however, just don't take them hunting.