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!
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day timeline
Fete Nationale du Quebec
Lieutenant Governor Hugues Lapointe declares June 24, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a national holiday in Quebec.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day Promoted
Journalist Ludger Duvernay, inspired by Montreal’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, establishes the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society to promote Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.
The bishop of Quebec ruins the party
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.
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.
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 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.
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.