Akin to the national holiday of Quebec, Saint Jean Baptiste Day is a celebration of Francophone culture in Canada. While Jean Baptiste is Quebec’s patron saint, Jean Baptiste Day has more pagan than religious roots and remains a secular holiday today.
The day was originally a celebration of the summer solstice. However, in 1834, after becoming inspired by the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Montreal, an influential journalist, Ludger Duvernay, rallied to create Quebec’s own holiday. This led to the birth of St. Jean Baptiste Day as an expression of cultural pride. In 1908, the Pope designated St. John the Baptist the patron saint of French Canadians. For a number of years, the holiday took on a religious tone, as it was supported by the Catholic church. Today, however, the holiday has been scrubbed of religious undertones and remains purely secular.
Various events are organized on Saint Jean Baptiste Day such as concerts, sports tournaments, parades and fireworks. People gather for picnics, barbecues, bonfires (which have their origin in the ancient summer solstice celebrations) and children’s entertainment. Many church bells ring in celebration and public dances and fairs are held. The flag of Quebec and the fleurs-de-lis are widespread symbols of Saint Jean Baptiste Day. Many people choose to wear blue or white clothing to the celebrations.