A national holiday in the Canadian province of Quebec and celebrated by French Canadians worldwide, especially in Canada and the United States, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, June 24, honors the traditional feast day of the Nativity — or birth — of St. John the Baptist. The religious nature of the holiday has been de-emphasized for civic events, and “la St-Jean” is now mainly a celebration of francophone culture and history filled with public events, parades, barbecues, picnics and fireworks. Bonne Saint-Jean-Baptiste!
When is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day 2023?
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, or St John the Baptist Day, is celebrated on June 24 in the Canadian province of Quebec and by French Canadians across Canada and the United States.
History of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is a national holiday celebrated on June 24 in Quebec, where it’s also known as ‘Fête nationale du Québec’ (‘national holiday of Quebec’ in English). Many Canadian Francophone communities outside of Quebec also celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.
The holiday festivities start on June 23 and people gather to celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and Francophone culture with outdoor activities, parades, concerts, and fireworks. Smaller celebrations are also held in neighborhoods, like bonfires, barbecues, and picnics. The white fleur-de-lis on the flag of Quebec is the symbol of this holiday. Blue and white are the colors of the day, and the flag is waved and hoisted at Fête nationale du Québec events.
The history of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is more than 100 years old. The day originally marked the honorary remembrance of the Christian saint, John the Baptist, but all this changed in 1834 when Canadian-French journalist Ludger Duvernay witnessed a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Montreal. Seeing the grand celebration for an honorary figure inspired him to form a similar holiday for French Canadians to honor their heritage. Duvernay established the charitable association, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, in the same year, and the holiday was observed for the first time on June 24. The association was chartered in 1849 with the aim of promoting moral and social progress.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day was celebrated on and off for years until it finally became an official holiday in Quebec in 1925. The day has been observed every year since and has become a mark of Francophone culture.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day timeline
One of the first recognized celebrations of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day took place on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River with bonfires and shots from a cannon.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is declared a public holiday by the second bishop of Quebec, Jean-Baptiste de La Croix de Chevrières de Saint-Vallier.
According to some sources, Henri-Marie Dubreil de Pontbriand, the sixth bishop of Quebec, tries to abolish Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations because he felt they had strayed too far from their religious origins.
Journalist Ludger Duvernay, inspired by Montreal’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, establishes the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society to promote Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.
Lieutenant Governor Hugues Lapointe declares June 24, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a national holiday in Quebec.
Many celebratory events are organized around Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. From small family gatherings like picnics, bonfires, parties, and yard sales, to large organized events such as concerts, parades, sports tournaments, and firework displays, there is something for everyone. Church bells also ring in celebration, and local funfairs and dances are hosted. These events are also sometimes broadcast live on TV or live-streamed on social media. The celebrations are coordinated by the Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois.
The colors for the day are blue and white, with many people wearing these to attend events. The public holiday is a day off from school and most businesses are also closed.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day FAQs
Why do we celebrate St-Jean-Baptiste Day?
St-Jean-Baptiste Day is a public holiday in Quebec, on which John the Baptist is remembered.
What is Québec's national holiday called?
The official holiday of Quebec, Canada is called Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day or ‘Fête nationale du Québec’ in French.
What is Saint Jean the patron saint of?
Saint Jean is the patron saint of Canada.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day Activities
Have a neighborhood picnic
One of the great things about la St-Jean is that the party spreads outward from the main city events into all the neighborhoods and communities. Organize a potluck picnic with your friends from the block.
Grab a seat near the water for fireworks
There's no better way to watch fireworks than right next to the water, where you'll get a front-row seat for the spectacular, booming, sparkling displays — both in the air and in the magical reflection on the waves.
French is one of the world's most beautiful languages. And it's the official tongue in a multitude of countries — not just France and Canada. Learn the language so you'll be prepared when you run into a fellow francophone.
5 Facts About Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
The holiday has many names
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is also known as St John the Baptist Day, ‘la Saint-Jean,’ ‘Fête nationale du Québec,’ and Quebec's National Holiday.
Symbols for the day
The flag of Quebec and the fleurs-de-lis represent Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.
He baptized Jesus
Jean Baptiste is French for John the Baptist, a Jewish preacher who baptized Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist saved
John baptized Jewish people in the river Jordan on their confession of their sins.
John the Baptist is also mentioned in Islam
St. John the Baptist is perceived as a prophet in the Islamic religion.
Why We Love Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
It's great fun
Like the St. Patrick's Day holiday that inspired it, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is a culture-wide party. And it's no exaggeration to say that it has a little something for everybody.
It honors the French diaspora
Although it's become a great big party for both French-speaking and non-French-speaking people alike, the holiday is a way to celebrate the heritage and contributions of francophones to the world's culture.
It's rooted in a deep, worldwide history
The feast day of John the Baptist was observed in France as far back as the Middle Ages. French colonists brought the tradition to Canada by the 17th century.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day dates