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National Holiday of Quebec
Fête nationale du Québec
National Holiday of Quebec Fête nationale du Québec
Fête nationale parade, Montreal, June 24, 2006
Also called La Saint-Jean, Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste
Observed by
Type Historical, cultural, national
Date June 24
Celebrations Parades, bonfires, fireworks, feasting, drinking, musical concerts, flag waving, patriotic speeches, contests

The National Holiday of Quebec (French: La Fête nationale du Québec) is the National Holiday[1] of the Canadian province of Quebec. A paid statutory public holiday covered under the Act Respecting Labour Standards[2], it is celebrated annually on June 24, St. John the Baptist Day.[1][3]

In Quebec, the festivities occur on June 23 and June 24, and since 1978 are publicly financed and organized by a National Holiday Organizing Committee (Comité organisateur de la fête nationale). June 24 continues to be celebrated as a festival of French Canadian culture in other provinces and in the United States.[4][5]



The feast day of Saint John the Baptist or Midsummer was a very popular event in the Ancien régime of France, and it is still celebrated as a religious feast day in several countries, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The tradition landed in Canada with the first French colonists. According to the Jesuit Relations, the first celebrations occurred on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River on the evening of June 23, 1636 with a bonfire and five cannon shots.[6]

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day

The green, white and red tricolour used by the Parti patriote between 1832 and 1838

In Lower Canada, the celebration of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day took a patriotic tone in 1834 on the initiative of one of the founders of the newspaper La Minerve, Ludger Duvernay, who would later become the first president of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society (SSJB). In the spring of 1834, Duvernay and other Patriotes attended the celebrations of the first St. Patrick's Day, the celebration of the Irish diaspora, in Montreal. This would have given him and others the idea of organizing something similar for all the Canadiens and their friends.[7]

On that June 24, George-Étienne Cartier's "Ô Canada! mon pays, mes amours" was first sung during a grand patriotic banquet gathering about sixty francophones and anglophones of Montreal[8], in the gardens of lawyer John McDonnell, near the old Windsor Station. The Canada in the song refers to Lower Canada, today's southern Quebec. Rounds of toasts went to the Parti patriote, the United States, Ireland, and the Ninety-Two Resolutions.[9]

Two days later, La Minerve concluded: "This holiday, whose goal is to solidify the union of the Canadiens, will not go without bearing fruit. It will be celebrated annually as a national holiday and will not miss producing the happiest results."[10] The celebration recurred in 1835, 1836, 1837.

Following the defeat of the insurrectional movement during the Lower Canada Rebellion and the military repressions which followed, the day was not celebrated for several years.[7]

Drapeau Carillon Sacré-Coeur: A Carillon flag waved by people on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day from its creation in 1902 until 1948. The current Flag of Quebec is based on this design, and was adopted in 1948.

In 1843, Duvernay established the charitable Association Saint-Jean Baptiste in order to have the Saint-Jean Baptiste celebrated that year. The association was chartered in 1849 with the mission of promoting social and moral progress. (See Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society.)

The celebrations were supported by the Catholic Church and were primarily religious around that time. The lighting of bonfires, a traditional custom on the Nativity of Saint John which ultimately reached back to pre-Christian Midsummer celebrations were still lit at night.[11] In addition, the first Saint-Jean-Baptiste parades were organized. They became an important tradition over time. The procession of allegorical floats was introduced in 1874.

On June 24, 1880, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society organized the gathering of all francophone communities across North America. The event was the first National Congress of French Canadians (Congrès national des Canadiens français). On this occasion, the citizens of Quebec City were the first ones to hear the "Ô Canada" of Calixa Lavallée, based on a poem by a Quebec Superior Court judge, Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The song was commissioned by the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society. It was well received but did not become a widely known song for many years. English words were later written for a royal tour in 1901. In 1980, "O Canada" became the official national anthem of Canada.

In 1908, Pope Pius X designated St. John the Baptist as the patron saint of French Canadians. From 1914 to 1923 the processions were not held. In 1925, 91 years after the Ludger Duvernay's banquet in Montreal, June 24 became a legal holiday in Quebec.

The Fête nationale

Fireworks over the Parliament Building of Quebec building in Quebec City on the eve of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day

In Quebec, June 24 or St. John the Baptist Day is officially a paid statutory public holiday covered under the Act Respecting Labour Standards.[1][2][3] In 1977, an Order-in-Council by Lieutenant Governor Hugues Lapointe, on the advice of René Lévesque, declared June 24 the national holiday in Quebec. The use of national in this context is controversial, because of the different usages of the word nation (see Nation, Ambiguity in usage).

The following year, the National Holiday Organizing Committee was created. The committee initially entrusted the organization of the events to the Société des festivals populaires du Québec. In 1984, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the SSJB, the organization of the celebrations was entrusted to the Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois (MNQ).[12][13]

After it became a statutory holiday, June 24 was officially a holiday for all Quebeckers rather than only those of French-Canadian or Catholic origins. Celebrations were gradually secularized, primarily due to actions taken by the MNQ, and June 23 and 24 became as we now know them. While the religious significance of the celebration is gone, the day remains popularly called la St-Jean-Baptiste or simply la St-Jean.


2008 celebrations

The 2008 theme was "Four Centuries... to celebrate!", marking the founding of Quebec City and 400 years of French presence in North America.[14] Spokespersons were artist Chloé Sainte-Marie and historian Jacques Lacoursière.[15] 750 local celebrations were organized throughout Quebec on June 23 and 24 of that year.[16]

2009 celebrations

The theme for the 2009 celebrations was "A voice that carries", marking the 175th anniversary of the National Holiday[17]. The spokespersons were comedian and storyteller Boucar Diouf[18] and actress Marie-Chantal Perron[19]. [1]

Political nature of the celebration

Free public concert in Battlefields Park on the eve of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day

During and immediately after the Quiet Revolution, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day became highly politicised. The religious symbolism associated with the celebrations was rejected by the younger generations.

Until the 1970s, Dominion Day, which fell on July 1, was little more than a day away from work for most Canadians;[citation needed] the major holiday was Victoria Day. To respond to the Quebec nationalist reappropiation of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, the federal government promoted July 1 as a national holiday for Canada.[citation needed] It did so by furnishing funds for lavish celebrations and by changing the name of the holiday to Canada Day. The use of national in the context of a provincial holiday is controversial for some Canadians, because of the different usages of the word "nation"[20] · [21]. More Quebecers celebrate la St-Jean on June 24 than Canada Day on July 1.[citation needed]

Governor General Georges Vanier, who, as viceroy,had always fostered unity and biculturalism, found himself the target of Quebec sovereigntists in Montreal, on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, 1964, wherein a group of sovereigntists held placards reading "Vanier vendu" ("Vanier the sell-out") and "Vanier fou de la Reine" ("Vanier, jester to the Queen").[22]

Four years later, with the new Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in attendance on the eve of a general election, a riot broke out on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, and 290 people were arrested. Trudeau was filmed refusing to take cover or leave the grandstand when the rioters pelted it with rocks, as well as bottles containing paint and acid. The scene was broadcast on Télévision de Radio-Canada's and CBC's evening news. Many saw it as an open act of courage, and it impressed the electorate[citation needed]. The incident contributed to his Liberal Party winning a significant majority the next day.[citation needed]

During french language network SRC's televised coverage of the 1969 Montreal parade, filmakers Bernard Gosselin and Pierre Perrault were asked to withdraw from the airwaves after nationalists and sarcastic comments. At one point they suggested the creation of a Ministry of boastfulness and a High Commissioner of kvetching[23]. There was a riot and the St. John the Baptist icon was destroyed. This led to the interruption of the parade, which did not take place the next year.

In June, 2009, Quebec bands Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill, whose members are English-speaking and bilingual Quebecers were added to the program of a local celebration of Quebec's National Day in Montreal called L'Autre St-Jean ("The Other St-Jean")[24][25][26] . When it became known that they would be performing their songs in English, there were several complaints and later the musicians were barred from the celebrations. The Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste President, Mario Beaulieu, defended the decision to cancel these musicians' performances, by stating that the official language of Quebec is French. However, after public outrage from both the anglophone and francophone communities, these two bands have been put back on the programme when it was clarified that the bands were allowed to sing songs in English. Historically, this festival has attempted to be more inclusive as groups in the past have sung in Creole and for the 2008 celebrations, Samian, "the world's first aboriginal Algonquin-language rapper", sang at Montreal's celebration.[27] [28][29]


  1. ^ a b c Gouvernement du Québec. "National Holiday Act", in CanLII, Federation of Law Societies of Canada, updated to May 1st, 2008, retrieved June 29, 2008
  2. ^ a b Gouvernement du Québec. "An Act Respecting Labour Standards", in CanLII, Federation of Law Societies of Canada, updated to May 1st, 2008, retrieved June 29, 2008
  3. ^ a b Gouvernement du Québec. "National Holiday", in the site of the Commission des normes du travail, 17 June 2008, retrieved June 29, 2008
  4. ^ Suzanne Thomas. "St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Historica Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-30. "Popular annual celebrations in French Canada on 24 June (the feast day of St John the Baptist) or on the days before or after this date." 
  5. ^ "Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day". Celebrate Canada!. Department of Canadian Heritage. "All across Canada, French Canadians express their cultural pride and rich heritage through colourful parades and lively parties on June 24 marking Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day." 
  6. ^ Suzanne Thomas. "St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Historica Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  7. ^ a b Lebel, Jean-Marie. "Duvernay, Ludger", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, University of Toronto, Université Laval, 2000, retrieved June 29, 2008
  8. ^ Attending the event were reformist politicians Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, Edouard Rodier, George-Étienne Cartier, Dr. Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan, Louis Perrault, Thomas Storrow Brown, and Montreal mayor Jacques Viger.
  9. ^ Prémont, Donald. "Duvernay, Ludger (1799-1852)", in the site Les Patriotes de 1837@1838, May 20, 2000, retrieved June 29, 2008
  10. ^ "Cette fête dont le but est de cimenter l'union des Canadiens ne sera pas sans fruit. Elle sera célébrée annuellement comme fête nationale et ne pourra manquer de produire les plus heureux résultats", in La Minerve, June 26, 1834
  11. ^ Claude Nadeau. "Histoire de la fête nationale des Québécois: la Saint-Jean Baptiste". Retrieved 2008-10-04. "" Déjà en des temps immémoriaux, les peuples païens célébraient le solstice d'été par un grand feu de joie, symbolisant la lumière qui était à son apogée."" 
  12. ^ MNQ. "La Fête nationale du Québec et le Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois (MNQ) ", in the site of the Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois, 2008, retrieved June 21, 2008
  13. ^ SSJB Mauricie. "Fête nationale", in the site of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste of Mauricie, 2008, retrieved June 29, 2008
  14. ^ "Quatre siècles… à célébrer !". Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois. Retrieved 2009-06-25. "En 2008, la Fête nationale souligne non seulement la fondation de la ville de Québec, mais aussi quatre siècles de présence francophone en Amérique du Nord." 
  15. ^ MNQ. "Mot des porte-parole de la Fête nationale 2008 ", in the site of the Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois, 2008, retrieved June 21, 2008
  16. ^ MNQ. Communiqué - bilan Fête nationale du Québec 2008, in the site of the Mouvement national des Québécoises et Québécois, 2008, retrieved June 21, 2008
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Hubbard, R.H.; Rideau Hall; McGill-Queen’s University Press; Montreal and London; 1977; p. 233
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^


In English
In French
  • Joly, Diane. "Les processions de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste à Montréal", in Encyclopédie du patrimoine culturel de l'Amérique française, July 21, 2008
  • Thomas, Suzanne. "Fêtes de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste", in L'Encyclopédie canadienne, Historica Fondation, 2008
  • Keller, Catherine. "Fête de la St Jean", in the on line edition of La Grande Époque, June 21, 2005
  • RDAQ. "La Saint-Jean-Baptiste", in the site of the Réseau des services d'archives du Québec, 2001
  • Prémont, Donald. "24 juin 1834 - Le premier banquet de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste", in Les Patriotes de 1837@1838, March 10, 2000
  • Nadeau, Claude, "Histoire de la fête nationale des Québécois : la Saint-Jean Baptiste", in, 1998 (her personal Web site)
  • Bizier, Hélène-Andrée and Paulette, Claude (1997). Fleur de lys, d'hier à aujourd'hui, Montréal: Édition Art Global, 158 p. (ISBN 2920718673)
  • Rumilly, Robert (1975). Histoire de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, des Patriotes au fleurdelysé, 1834-1948, Montréal: Éditions de l'Aurore, 564 p. (ISBN 0885320891)
  • Vaugeois, Denis (1978). "La Saint-Jean, fête de la fierté", in Forces, XLIII, 2nd quarter, 1978
  • SSJBM (1926). Processions de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste en 1924 et 1925; [...], Montréal: L. Beauchemin, 315 p. (online)
  • SSJBM (1904). 70ème anniversaire de l'Association nationale St-Jean-Baptiste, Montréal, 1834-1904, Montréal: Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, 66 p. (online)
  • SSJBQ (1902). Programme des fêtes du soixantenaire de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Québec, 1842-1902 : fête nationale des Candiens-français, lundi, 23 juin 1902, Québec: Impr. Darveau, J. Baeuchamp, 16 p. (online)
  • SSJBM (1903). Souvenir patriotique de la St-Jean-Baptiste, 1903 : dédié aux familles canadiennes, Montréal: Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, 44 p. (online)
  • SSJBM (1901). Souvenir de la fête de la St-Jean-Baptiste, 1901, Montréal: Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, 32 p. (online)
  • Chouinard, H.-J.-J.-B. (1890). Fête nationale des Canadiens-français célébrée à Québec, 1881-1889, Québec: L'Imprimerie Belleau & cie éditeurs, 537 p. (online)
  • SSJBM (1884). Souvenir de la St-Jean-Baptiste à Montréal, 1884, Montréal: Canada Railway News Co., 48 p. (online)
  • Chouinard, H.-J.-J.-B. (1881). Fête nationale des Canadiens français célébrée à Québec en 1880, Québec: L'Imprimerie A. Coté & cie éditeurs, 1881, 632 p. (online)

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