Since 1908 or so, depending on who you ask, Saint-Jean-Baptiste (that’s John the Baptist to you) has been the patron saint of French Canada, but his holiday – June 24 – has taken on increasingly nationalistic overtones since the 1970s. To wit: It’s otherwise known as the Fête Nationale. In reality, though, it’s a day that separatists and nationalists alike can enjoy. Coming at the cusp of summer, it’s an auspicious time for a party – and usually a bonfire, and maybe even a small riot or two.
The largest celebrations include the main parade, which winds along Sherbrooke between Fullum and Parc Maisonneuve, and “Le Grand Spectacle,” which takes place at parade’s end. This year, acts like Xavier Caféïne, Loco Locass and Paul Cargnello will take the stage. Plus there’ll be fireworks in Pointe-Claire, an open house at the historic Chateau Dufresne and a street fair on Bloomfield in Outremont.
For many, it’s the small celebrations in parks and neighbourhoods that make the day a summer highlight. The once hugely popular St. Viateur street fair is now a thing of the past, a victim of its own success, but a quick scouring of local parks and backyards yields ample festivities. (Or check out the official schedule online.)
Regrettably, this year’s Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day falls on a Tuesday, stranded awkwardly in the middle of the week. I believe that the province should declare Monday to be a statutory holiday, too. Now there’s a cause that everyone can support.