MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE celebrates a quarter century of winter delights

February 22, 2024

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MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE is turning 25 this year! Over the years, the event has established some cherished traditions, from the famous Nuit Blanche to its irresistible culinary and cultural programs. In the process, it has proven that Montreal is a city of festivals all year long. Today, it’s hard to imagine winter in the Quartier des Spectacles without this venerable festival. As we get ready for the start of the 2024 edition, which runs from February 29 to March 10, we spoke with executive director Jacques Primeau, who talked about the history and reach of this marquee event.

By Sébastien Tétrault

How would you describe the festival and its mission?

MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE is a unique event whose main mission is to inspire people to get outside and enjoy winter in the city. Before it was launched, downtown Montreal was largely deserted during the winter months. The festival resulted from the desire of downtown players to bring some ambiance and excitement to a particularly slow time of year. By organizing indoor and outdoor activities, MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE gave the public good reasons to spend time in places that they used to avoid in winter. Ever since, the festival has kept evolving, and it has become a way to celebrate every facet of our Nordic lifestyle – sports, culture, gastronomy.

How has MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE changed since its inception?

Even though the festival has never stopped evolving, it has also shown remarkable consistency. For example, one of the festival’s core elements, the culinary section, was part of the very first edition. The famous French chef Paul Bocuse was the honorary chair that year. Over the last quarter century, MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE has not only reflected the evolution of Quebec’s culinary scene, it has influenced it. Although it has remained open to foreign influences, the festival has been particularly active in stimulating local creativity and facilitating encounters between chefs of varied backgrounds. In terms of culture and entertainment, we can’t forget that MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE now takes place in nine of the city’s boroughs and benefits from the participation of around a hundred cultural organizations. That means we can have a program that’s both vast and relevant, including theatre, dance, music, comedy, museum exhibits, improv and more. Over the years, new key elements have been added to the festival’s original core, like the famous Nuit Blanche, whose 21st edition will happen on March 2, and our March Break activities, which will cater to families with children from March 2 to 10.

Are outdoor activities an essential part of the festival?

One of the festival’s aims is to celebrate every facet of Nordic life, so naturally outdoor activities are an essential element. MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE has taken on the mission of giving people multiple ways to play outside, and in the last four years skating has emerged as the top outdoor activity. At the CeraVe Skating Loop in Place des Festivals and the Esplanade Tranquille skating rink, skaters find a simply magical ambiance. These immersive skating rinks have been remarkably successful with the public, and I believe we’ve finally found the missing piece to fully round out the festival’s offerings.

Do you have some comments on this year’s 25th edition?

You can expect a particularly fun and dynamic program! The extensive core program will be enhanced by special events, like the Skate Canada winter show on March 2, on the Esplanade Tranquille rink, featuring athletes like Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac. We’ll also welcome players from Montreal’s new women’s hockey team, who will skate on the same rink on March 1. The musical ambiance of the outdoor site will be provided by the DJs of ICI Musique. And even though tickets are already selling fast, I have to put in a word for the impressive quality and variety of our indoor shows, including Lisa Leblanc, Kid Koala, Bruno Pelletier, David Goudreault and many more!

How do you envision the future of MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE?

That’s a timely question, because I’m on my final edition of the festival. I’m very proud of how MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE has evolved, and I believe it has many great years ahead of it. When I started in 2020, all of the ingredients were already in place, and the festival already had a great reputation among Montrealers. We have to salute the vision of founders Alain Simard and L’équipe Spectra, who succeeded in filling a void. What I’m most proud of, as executive director, is having incorporated skating into our already rich set of offerings. I truly believe that skating is a popular activity that allows everyone to enjoy a winter experience that’s typical of Montreal and Quebec. You just have to see the atmosphere around the skating loop in the evening! You meet both regulars and newcomers, and they’re all wearing a great big smile. If the success of MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE proves one thing, it’s that Montrealers, whether they’re born here or arrived later on in life, would rather experience winter than simply endure it!


February 29 to March 10, 2024