Being an Anglophone on St. Jean Baptiste Day

24 06 2007

This weekend is the Fête nationale du Québec otherwise known as St Jean Baptist Day.

The Fête nationale du Québec (“Quebec National Holiday”) is an official holiday of Quebec, Canada. The festivities occur on June 23 and June 24 and are organized by the Comité organisateur de la fête nationale (“national holiday organizing committee”). Originally, June 24 was a holiday honouring one of the patron saints of Quebec, St. John the Baptist, and in ordinary conversation the day is still often called la Saint-Jean by Quebecers.

Although the holiday has official status only in Quebec, it is also celebrated by francophones in other Canadian provinces and in the United States as a festival of French Canadian culture. In these contexts, it is more often called Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

The origins of the traditional festivities are more than 2000 years old. Among several European peoples, the summer solstice was the object of pagan celebrations (Midsummer). Fires were lit during the night in this period of the year when the days are longest. With the arrival of Christianity, the celebration of the event remained; however, it took a new spiritual significance. The celebration of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste was a very popular event in the France of the Ancien régime, and it is celebrated as a religious feast day in several countries, like Denmark.

The tradition landed in North America with the first French colonists. According to the Jesuit Relations, the first celebrations of this Christian day in New France took place around 1638.

As an Anglophone living in Quebec, I tend to stick closer to home for this holiday. I might be bold to suggest this, but its definaltly a sentiment I feel living here during this time. St Jean Baptist is about English bashing. Granted, it is about being proud and patriotic of all things Quebequois, but at the expense of things English.

Even though this holiday is rooted in history, and weaved in religion, as with all modern day holidays the tradition has been stripped out for something far more commercial and political.

Canada Day (which is this coming week, on July 1st) is “Moving Day” here in Montreal, and isn’t as widely celebrated as St Jean Baptist. (Pretty much all rental agreements start and end on July 1st, pretty much all rental and moving vans are booked for this day)

I don’t know why I feel so uncomfortable with this holiday, I feel very self conscience speaking English this weekend, and more so speaking French.

There are a lot of ‘patriots’ in Quebec . . . lots of people who would love to see Quebec separate from Canada. . . .

*sigh*

I wish we wouldn’t celebrate the desire to separate!

I enjoy having the long weekend. . . . .and watching fireworks. . .  .I wish everyone celebrating St Jean Baptist a wonderful and safe day. . . . .

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4 responses

24 06 2007
LaBelleProvince

Great post. I understand how you feel, as I felt this way too when I moved to Montreal. I haven’t yet gone to a Fete Nationale celebration because I’m also an Anglo. However, I’ve decided I’m going to the next one, as now that I’m in exile for a year, I’m hearing Quebec slagged so often and so offhandedly that I find myself defending Quebec. I guess it’s made me realize that I’m much more on an emotional wavelength with with des Québécoises et Québécois, whether they want me or not.

25 06 2007
monday bullets » change therapy - isabella mori

[…] was also st. jean baptiste day, an important day in our beautiful canadian province of quebec, as well, supposedly, brotherhood […]

11 07 2007
quirksalight

It was actually pretty interesting being there. St. Jean-Baptist day was the first day I was in Montreal, and the night events at Olympic Park were pretty cool. Granted, I really didn’t understand a lot of what was being sung/said, but it was hard not to appreciate the enthusiasm and love of state that the audience had.

11 07 2007
Joey

That I can agree with!

🙂

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