lundi 1 juin 2015

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day: the origins

If you type: "Saint-Jean-Baptiste" in the search field, you will find it's a National Holiday in Quebec. So, how come we are celebrating the "Saint-Jean-Baptiste" in Saskatchewan? And not only in Saskatchewan, but all across Canada. What are the origins of this celebration?

Before I came from France, I didn't celebrate the "Saint-Jean-Baptiste". I did celebrate the "Saint-Jean". As a child,  with my family, we went along the Seine banks where an impressive pyre was built, waiting to be burnt at night. During the day, the "rue de la République" (my hometown's main artery) was filled with exhibitors who came to the annual "foire à tout": the local garage sale event. In the evening, people attended a concert before someone started the huge fire. It was (and probably still is) a very popular event. As for myself, I was more interested in participating to the "Saint-Martin", or attending to the fireworks of the French National Holiday. It was an impressive show, happening in July 14, in the "parc de la Marquise".

Saint Jean's Day is an old celebration of pagan tradition. It's celebrated in June, and it corresponds to the Summer Solstice. People collected wood, and burnt it to make a bonfire. They danced. Young people were primarily responsible for collecting wood for the fire. It was a youth festival. 

I remember I was told the bonfire had to burn to the ground. If by chance it extinguished or didn't catch, a potential disaster would occur within the year. And it seemed it has happened in the past, as our town  was subjected to war in 1870, 1914, and 1939. But I can't tell if it's true or if it's part of the legend.

Sources :

Today, I don't celebrate the "Saint-Jean" anymore. No more "foire à tout", no more pyre! As a matter of fact, it would be properly insane to burn a pyre of that size in Saskatchewan when we know how strong the wind can be!. But there is a concert for the "Saint-Jean-Baptiste".

We celebrate the pleasure to be together with family, friends, neighbourgs, acquaintances. We celebrate the beautilful French language, and the new generation of speakers. And even if children don't collect wood anymore, we still celebrate the Youth. We will celebrate our young friends on 24 June in Ponteix, Saskatchewan.

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