St. Jean Baptiste Day

The National Holiday of Quebec is celebrated annually on June 24, St-Jean-Baptiste Day (the feast day of St. John the Baptist). Yes, it’s odd that a province has its own “national” holiday, nevertheless, it’s a good excuse to celebrate French Canadian culture.

Certainly an unexpected surprise to me is that it’s celebrated even here in Southern Alberta. The Association Canadienne-Francaise de l’Alberta (ACFA) is hosting a party (today) for St-Jean Baptiste day with a barbecue, campfires, fireworks, dancing, and a beer garden right here in Lethbridge.Drapeau Carillon Sacré-Coeur
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. (Source: Wikipedia)

Reading up on St. Jean Baptiste Day, I learned (or possibly relearned) that the Canadian national anthem, O Canada, shares its origins with this celebration:

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.)

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