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Holidays 101

All about St-Jean-Baptiste Day

Published on May 18, 2022 | Last Updated June 17, 2022
A boy with his face painted with fleur-de-lis. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

St-Jean-Baptiste Day is a national holiday that's celebrated in Quebec. It's known as la Saint-Jean or Fête nationale (national holiday) in Quebec.

Many Canadian Francophone communities outside of Quebec also celebrate St-Jean-Baptiste Day.

Festivities take place on June 23 and 24.

What is St-Jean-Baptiste Day?

Quebec flag hanging off a metal balcony.

A Quebec flag hangs from a balcony in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The history of St-Jean-Baptiste Day goes back hundreds of years. Originally, it was a day to remember St. John the Baptist, a Christian saint. But that changed in the spring of 1834.

A French-Canadian businessman named Ludger Duvernay went to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Montreal. He thought that French Canadians should have a day like that to honour their own heritage. So he formed the Saint Jean Baptiste Society. They celebrated their new holiday on June 24 of 1834.

two ladies with blue and white face paint, hair and clothing.

Two people dressed up in the white and blue colours of the Quebec flag. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

St-Jean-Baptiste Day was celebrated on and off for years. It finally became an official holiday in Quebec in 1925. From that point on, the day has been observed each year. It has become a celebration of the Francophone culture and its history.

How is it celebrated?

It's a giant puppet of Maurice Richard on wheels

A giant puppet of hockey legend Maurice Richard is pulled along in a parade. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

There are lots of public events like concerts, parades and firework displays. Families and neighbourhoods also get together for their own smaller celebrations. They have picnics, bonfires, and barbecues.

hundreds of people all waving the Quebec flag

People wave Quebec flags on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

The flag of Quebec and the white fleur-de-lis (it means lily) that is on the flag are both symbols of the holiday. Many people wave the blue and white flag at events. They often wear blue or white clothing when attending celebrations.

“Bonne Saint-Jean-Baptiste!” (Happy St-Jean-Baptiste!)

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