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Events and Holidays – IELC

Festivals and Celebrations

Every month and season has special events, holidays and festivals where you can have fun and explore Canada's diverse cultures.


In the province of Quebec, there are 9 official holidays during the year when the school is closed. But there are many other unofficial holidays that people celebrate around the year.

January 1 – New Year's Day (holiday)

People often have big parties on the evening of December 31, to celebrate the new year. Usually the university is closed for a few days after January 1.

February 2 – Groundhog Day. This celebration is about an animal called a groundhog that lives in a hole in the ground. It is supposed to come out on this day. If it is sunny, and the groundhog can see its shadow, it means the winter will continue for 6 more weeks. If it is cloudy, and the groundhog can't see its shadow, then spring will come soon.

Chinese New Year – is often in February or March. This is the new year in the Chinese Lunar (moon) calendar. As there are many people of Chinese origin in Canada, it is widely celebrated.

February 14 – Saint Valentine's Day. This is a day for lovers. Traditionally, children send valentine cards to each other, and adults give their sweethearts chocolate, candy or flowers. Many couples go out for dinner together – it is a busy day in restaurants.

March 8 – International Women's Day

March 17 – Saint Patrick's Day, a celebration of Irish culture

March or April – Good Friday and Easter Monday (holiday)
This his is an important Christian religious holiday marking the death and resurrection of  Jesus Christ.  The date changes every year in March or April. The university is closed on the Friday and the Monday, so it is a 4-day weekend.

April 1 – On April Fool's Day, people play jokes and pranks on their friends

April 22 – Earth Day 

May 24, or a Monday near then – Victoria Day (holiday)
This is a holiday to celebrate the Queen's birthday. It is the last Monday in May before the 25th. The university is closed.

Mother's Day – the second Sunday of May

Father's Day – the third Sunday of June

June 24 – National Holiday of Quebec (holiday)

This is the most important civic holiday in Quebec. It is the day of Saint John the Baptist. The university is closed, and there is a big parade and free concert in Montreal, and fireworks.

July 1 – Canada Day (holiday)

One week after June 24, we have Canada Day, the country's birthday (since 1867). There is a parade and fireworks and the university is closed. Many people in Quebec call it “Moving Day” because they have to move their apartments on this day.

First Monday of September – Labour Day (holiday)

In Canada and the U.S.A. the first Monday of September is Labour Day, a holiday for workers. The university is closed. Usually the school year begins after Labour Day.

Second Monday of October – Thanksgiving Day (holiday)

This is holiday is celebrated by having a big dinner with your family. It is traditional to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and be thankful for everything you have in your life.

October 31 – Halloween is a traditional celebration for children to wear costumes and visit homes 'trick-or-treating' – asking for candy.

November 11 – Remembrance Day – this is the day to remember soldiers who died fighting for Canada in wars. People wear a red flower (a poppy) on their clothes to show they respect the memory of the soldiers. November 11 was the day World War 1 ended in 1918.

December 25 – Christmas (holiday)
This is the most important Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The university closes a few days before and reopens after New Year's Day. At this time, people wish each other “Happy Holidays” to celebrate the season, because other religions and cultures celebrate at this time of year, too.
December 26 – Boxing Day is the day after Christmas. It is a traditional day for visiting friends and family, but most people think of it as a day to go shopping for “Boxing Day sales” when things are supposed to be cheaper after Christmas.

Summer is the real “Festival Season” in Montreal. From June to September, there is something great to do every day and every weekend. There are so many events that it is easy to miss some. This is list of most of the summer festivals.

Formula 1 (F1) Car Race – Grand Prix du Canada      [early June]

Montreal's own Formula 1 (F1) race happens on a weekend in early June. The races are on Notre-Dame Island (Metro Jean-Drapeau on the Yellow Line). There is a lot of action on Crescent Street and on Saint Laurent Boulevard, too. The streets are closed and many people are celebrating the first big event of the Montreal summer. Grand Prix du Canada

Fringe Theatre Festival    [early June]

Do you like theatre? Then maybe you will like the Fringe Festival. It is a festival of funny, different, experimental and crazy theatre. The tickets are cheap, and the actors and writers are usually young, but the shows are guaranteed to be something you've never seen before. Montreal Fringe Festival

Mural Festival    [June]

In the Plateau neighborhood, centered around Saint Laurent Boulevard, there is a festival of murals and urban art every June. Artists from around the world are invited to create something huge on the walls of buildings. They are beautiful and interesting. Mural Festival

Baroque Music Festival (Classical music from the 17th and 18th centuries)    [June]

Montreal has a Baroque classical music festival every June. Baroque music is from the 17th and 18th centuries. There are free concerts and also concerts with tickets, which are cheap for students.  Montreal Baroque Festival

Francofolies French Music Festival    [late June]

Another big music festival in the summer in Montreal is the Francofolies. It is a celebration of French songs and music. It happens at the Place des Festivals (Metro Place-des-Arts) at the end of June. Famous French-speaking singers and musicians from all over the world perform, and there are many free concerts. For more information check the Francofolies de Montreal website.

Saint Jean Baptiste Parade and Concert     [June 24]

June 24 is the national holiday of Quebec, and everything is closed, including the school. There is a big, colourful parade to celebrate Quebec culture and everyone waves blue and white flags of Quebec. It is followed by a big concert with famous Quebec singers and musicians. Fête Nationale

Canada Day     [July 1]

There is a smaller parade and shows in the Old Port followed by fireworks to celebrate Canada's birthday on July 1. There is a bigger show in Ottawa. Canada Day Parade

Fireworks Festival     [July]

Every summer, there is an international fireworks competition in Montreal. You can see fireworks with music from La Ronde (with tickets) or free from Old Montreal or from the Jacques-Cartier Bridge (Metro Papineau). The bridge is closed early in the evening, and thousands of people walk up for a great view of the fireworks and also of Montreal at night. The shows are Wednesday and Saturday nights. The show starts at 10:00, and lasts 30 minutes (till 10:30). Every week, it is a different country. The fireworks show has music with it, which can be heard if you buy a ticket. However, you can listen for free with a radio on 105.7 FM (Rhythme FM – a French radio station). L'international des feux Loto-Quebec

Jazz Festival    [early July]

The Montreal International Jazz Festival is the biggest and most famous summer festival in the city. It usually happens for about 10 days at the end of June to the beginning of July. Famous musicians from all over the world come for this famous festival. There are over 350 free concerts outside on different stages around the Place des Festivals (Metro Place-des-Arts). Sainte Catherine Street is closed and the street becomes the festival site.The free outdoor shows are every afternoon and evening.  There are several large outdoor shows that over 100,000 people go to.  It is a lot of fun and a special atmosphere. Some special indoor shows require tickets. For more information, look in the newspaper or check their website: Montreal International Jazz Festival

Montreal Comiccon     [July]

For those who love anime, graphic novels, fantasy, science fiction and more, Montreal has a large convention at the Palais des Congrès (metro Place-d'armes) where fans can meet actors and creators. Montreal Comiccon

Montréal Complètement Cirque      [July]

Montreal is home to Cirque du Soleil and other modern circus companies and the TOHU. So of course Montreal has a circus festival every summer. Montréal Complètement Cirque

Weekends du Monde      [July]

On a few weekends in the summer, Parc Jean-Drapeau, easily accessed on the yellow line of the metro, hosts weekends of international cultural activities, with music, dance and shows of traditional culture from all over the world. Weekends du Monde

Fantasia Film Festival    [early July]

The Fantasia film festival at Concordia University every summer shows fantasy, animation, horror, science fiction and other genre films from Asia and all over the world. Some films are very popular and sell out quickly.For more information, check the website: Fantasia Film Festival

Just For Laughs Comedy Festival    [July]

Montreal’s annual comedy festival Just For Laughs/Juste pour rire. Many American TV producers come to the festival to watch new comics and find new TV stars. There are free street performances every afternoon and evening at Place des Festivals (Metro Place-des-Arts). One of the favourites is the free Twin Parade, with dozens of twins walking in a parade. For tickets to the comedy shows, or more information, check their website.

Kahnawake Pow Wow     [July]

McGill University is on traditional territory of Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe First Nations. A good way to learn about indigenous culture is to attend the annual Pow Wow at Kahnawake, south of Montreal. Kahnawake Pow Wow

Carifiesta Caribbean Culture Parade and Festival    [July]

This is a big street party and parade to celebrate Caribbean culture. There is music, dancing and wonderful costumes. Carifiesta

Nuits d'Afrique African Festival   [July]

Nuits d'Afrique is a festival of African music and culture. There are free shows at the Place des Festivals. Nuits d'Afrique

Dragon Boat Races    [July]

Dragon boats are traditional Chinese boats with 20 paddlers. This cultural tradition has spread all over the world, and Montreal has a dragon boat competition in July in Parc Jean-Drapeau, where the Olympic rowing basin is. Dragon Boats

Heavy MTL    [July]

If you love Heavy Metal music, then this weekend festival is for you. The shows are in Parc Drapeau. Heavy Montreal

Shakespeare in the Park    [July and August]

On summer evenings in parks all over Montreal, Repercussion Theatre performs plays by William Shakespeare. Bring an outdoor chair or blanket to sit on the grass and enjoy. The plays are free, but if you like it, give a donation. Shakespeare in the Park

Otakuthon Anime Festival    [August]

Montreal has its own Anime Convention in August. There is cosplay, concerts, videos, and live events. Otakuthon

Gay Pride Parade – LGBTQ2 Pride Festival    [August]

Pride parades celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ2 community and remember the 1969 Stonewall uprising. In Montreal, Pride is celebrated in August with many events, including the huge parade on the final Sunday. Gay Pride Parade 

Rogers Cup Professional Tennis Tournament     [August}

Every summer in there is the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal and Toronto. The men play in one city, and the women play in the other. They change every year. In Montreal, they play at the IGA Stadium in Jarry Park (Metro De Castelnau).

Fashion and Design Festival     [August]

In June every year, there is a festival of Fashion and Design in downtown Montreal on McGill College Street, just off Sainte Catherine Street (Metro McGill). There are free outdoor fashion shows and many special events. To get more details, check the Fashion and Design Festival website.

First Peoples (Indigenous) Festival     [August]

McGill University is on traditional territory of Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe First Nations. Another good way to learn about indigenous culture is to attend the annual First People's Festival in August. It is at Place-des-Festivals, near Place-des-Arts metro.

Osheaga Alternative/Indie Music Festival     [August]

The Osheaga Festival happens in Jean Drapeau Park. It is a big 3-day music festival with dozens of performers, some famous and some not. You buy a ticket for the whole day or the weekend, and you can watch all the shows all day long. Osheaga

Scottish Festival and Highland Games     [August]

Thousands of Montrealers have ancestors from Scotland. McGill University is named after a Scottish man! Scottish people celebrate their history and heritage with the highland games. There are dance performances, sports, food and of course, bagpipes! Montreal Highland Games 

Italian Week     [August]

Montreal has a huge Italian-Canadian community, and they celebrate their culture and heritage every year with Italian Week in Little Italy, centered on Saint Laurent Boulevard between Saint Zotique and Jean-Talon. There are fashion shows, musical performances, films, and of course great food and coffee. Montreal Italian Week

Hot Air Balloon Festival in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu     [August]

There is a large international hot air balloon festival in the town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, about a 20-minute drive from Montreal. There are over 100 balloons, and you can ride in one for  about $200. There is a special bus service from Montreal that costs about $10. Balloon Canada 

Matsuri Japanese Festival     [August]

The Japanese community celebrates its culture with a festival at the Japanese Cultural Centre. There is food, beautiful kimonos and yukatas, drum performances and more. Matsuri Japon

Most people agree that the autumn is the most beautiful season in Quebec. School and work begin again after the summer holidays, so there aren't as many festivals and events, but there is still plenty to do in Montreal.

Montreal Marathon and 1/2 Marathon     [September]

Montreal has a big marathon (42 km) race every September. It usually starts on the Jacques Cartier Bridge, and the runners go all through the city. Many streets are blocked. There is also a half-marathon and short distances to run. Oasis Montreal Marathon

Pop Montreal Festival     [September]

Pop Montreal is a week-long festival of music and art in September, with over 450 shows. Pop Montreal

YUL EAT Festival     [September]

This is a food festival – Montrealers love their food. You can try many different kinds of food in one place. It is in September at the Quartier des Festivals near Place-des-Arts metro. YUL EAT

Fall Colours     [September – October]

In the fall, from the end of September to October you can see beautiful leaves in red, orange, yellow and gold from maples and other trees. Quebec is famous for the beautiful colours in the fall. You can see nice leaves in Mount Royal Park, in Angrignon Park and on many Montreal streets.

Magic Lanterns at the Botanical Gardens     [September – October]

Every fall, the Montreal Botanical Gardens invites lantern makers from Asia to come an make beautiful lanterns in the Chinese and Japanese gardens. There are so many to see after dark – it really is magical. Gardens of Light

Pumpkins at the Botanical Garden     [October]

The Botanical Garden also has a pumpkin and squash display in time for Halloween. The Great Pumpkin Ball

Festival du Nouveau Cinema     [October]

Montreal hosts an international festival of alternative and experimental films every fall. Check out the schedule at Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Santa Claus Parade     [November]

On a Saturday in November, there is the annual Santa Claus parade on Sainte Catherine street. This is for children, but it is a fun way to get into the Christmas shopping spirit.

Image + Nation LGBTQ Film Festival     [November]

Image + Nation is a festival of LGBTQ movies and stories. It is usually at the end of November. Image + Nation 

Salon des metier d'arts     [December]

In December, there is a big arts and crafts show at Place Bonaventure (metro Bonaventure). Hundreds of Quebec artist sell their handmade work. It is very interesting, and a great place to buy unique Christmas presents! Salon des Metiers d'Arts

Winter is cold and the days are short, but Montrealers find ways to make the most of it!

Luminothérapie    [December to January]

The days are short in December – the sun comes up after 7:00 AM and goes down around 4:30. So there is a festival at Place-des-Arts Quartier des Spectacles called Luminotherapy – light therapy. Every year, artists create fun interactive art installations that involve art. It isn't far from McGill.

Fête des Neiges (Snow Festival)     [January to February]

At Jean-Drapeau Park on weekends in January and February, have outdoor fun in winter. There are winter sports to try and fun activities for adults and kids. Montreal Snow Festival

Igloofest    [January]

This is an electronic dance music festival that takes place outdoors in the Old Port in January. There are famous DJs and huge crowds dancing in the cold winter nights. Igloofest

Quebec City Winter Carnival     [February]

Quebec City hosts its famous Winter Carnival every year in early February. There are many events including ice sculptures, canoe races on the frozen river and outdoor dance parties. Quebec Winter Carnival

Montreal High Lights (Montréal en lumière)     [February to March]

In February-March every year, Montreal has a unique festival about light displays, food, art and culture. One of the features is Nuit Blanche (see below). There are dozens of events of all sorts to make the winter brighter and more interesting. Montreal High Lights

Nuit Blanche    [early March]

Nuit Blanche is a special event at the end of the Montreal High Lights. Art galleries, museums, music venues, restaurants and night clubs are open all night with hundreds of fun activities. The “all-nighter” is a chance to explore another side of Montreal. Many events are free, and the metro is open all night so you can get around.

Art Souterrain (Underground Art)    [march]

This annual festival displays interesting contemporary art in the underground city – the metro and all the connected shopping centres. It usually takes place in March. It is a great chance to see modern art outside of a museum. Art Souterrain

Sugaring off    [March – April]

As the winter ends, the sap starts running in maple trees and an ancient Quebec tradition happens again – sugaring off. This means visiting a sugar shack (a maple syrup farm) and having a traditional meal including tire – maple toffee cooled on the snow. Take a ride on horse-drawn wagon in the forest and get a taste of traditional Quebec food.

After the winter, there fun things to do. The days get longer and everyone feels like summer is coming soon.

Butterflies Go Free    [February to April]

In the greenhouses of the Botanical Garden every spring, there is a special event where you can see hundreds of beautiful tropical butterflies flying free. The colours are incredible, and they even land on people. From February to April. Butterflies Go Free

Sugaring off    [March to April]

As the winter ends, the sap starts running in maple trees and an ancient Quebec tradition happens again – sugaring off. This means visiting a sugar shack (a maple syrup farm) and having a traditional meal including tire – maple toffee cooled on the snow. Take a ride on horse-drawn wagon in the forest and get a taste of traditional Quebec food.

Saint Patrick's Day   [around March 17]

Irish immigrants came from Ireland to Montreal in large numbers in the 19th century, as they did in many cities in the eastern U.S.A, such as New York and Boston. To celebrate their cultural heritage, people whose ancestors are Irish celebrate Saint Patrick's Day with a parade in downtown Montreal on a Sunday near March 17. Dress warmly and wear green! Saint Patrick's Day Parade

Blue Metropolis Literary Festival    [April]

Every April, Montreal has a literary festival for writers in English, French and other languages. If you are interested in literature, this festival is for you. Blue Metropolis

Beer Festival (Mondial de la bière)     [May]

One of the largest beer tasting festivals in North America happens at Windsor Station [Gare Windsor] in May. Beer Festival

Montreal Museums Day    [end of May]

On a weekend near the end of May, all the Montreal museums are free and open long hours. There are special STM buses to take passengers from museum to museum. It is a crowded but fun way to discover the more than 30 museums in Montreal. Montreal Museum Day

Tour de l'Île (Bike Festival)   [end of May]

At the end of May or beginning of June, Montreal has a huge bicycle race all around the island of Montreal, with over 30,000 participants. Many streets are closed for the race, and everyone can participate in this annual bicycle celebration. Tour de l'Île