Happy holiday to all Quebecers!
Background explainer for readers outside the province: This is St-Jean Baptiste Day in Quebec, a national holiday only celebrated in this province — not in the rest of Canada.
The origins of the holiday are rooted in fifth-century France when, as the Montreal Gazette reports, “Christianity spread through France, and the focus of (Summer Solstice) celebrations turned to honouring John the Baptist on June 24 — his feast day. Traditionally, bonfires would be lit on the eve of June 24 in order to honour the saint.”
French colonists continued the celebrations in Quebec, and “in 1977, the celebration was officially declared as being the Fête Nationale du Québec, or the Quebec national holiday.”
Today, the holiday has little to do with John the Baptist. Throughout most of the past few decades, it has been a celebration of Quebec pride and, more important, Quebec nationalism. French Quebecers are seen as a “distinct people” by the Canadian government, and French is the official language of Quebec. For many French Quebecers, that is not enough: they want Quebec to be an independent country, and that is the primary raison d’etre of the Parti Québécois, which is not in power now (the Liberals are).
Sadly, few non-francophones celebrate the Fête Nationale du Québec. The past nationalist fervour has turned them off, even though the majority of francophone Quebecers now oppose separatism and the Fête Nationale celebrations are little more than a flag-waving party.
But the holiday along with Canada Day next week (July 1) highlight the fact that the “two solitudes,” a term coined to portray the French and English citizens of the province, is very much a fact: while the majority of francophones will celebrate the Fête Nationale today, few of them will celebrate Canada Day next week.
The situation is reversed for anglophones here: few will celebrate the Fête Nationale today, but far more of them will celebrate Canada Day next week. See another Montreal Gazette article for more details.
Personally, I am very sympathetic to the sovereignist cause in Quebec. I feel for the French people, and I think they deserve to have an independent country. If that day ever comes, I know that non-francophones will have a place here. Montreal is a multicultural city, and nobody wants to change that.
We would be so much better off without the Canadian government and its fat-cat unelected senators . . . But that’s another story.
I am a proud Quebecer.
Je t’aime, Québec.
Bonne Fête Nationale à tous les Québécois!