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Féte de St. Jean Baptiste

Parade St. Jean Baptiste, 1949.

The French speaking settlers who arrived in St. Vincent from Québec and elsewhere brought with them many traditions and customs from their old lives. One event which retains importance is the feast of St. John the Baptist. Essentially a religious holiday, the celebrations traditionally take place on the 24th of June, and have been an important part of St. Vincent’s cultural heritage since its establishment.

First celebrated in New France in 1615, Church leaders discovered that the day coincided with the summer solstice and the feast day of St. John the Baptist, considered as the patron saint of French Canadian. The celebration also symbolizes the baptism of New France.

Child representing St. Jean Baptiste

Typically, an outdoor mass was held on the feast day, followed by a parade. Riding on the last float would be blond and curly-haired boy wearing a sheepskin, holding a cane and carrying a lamb to represent St. John the Baptist. Plays, contests and games for the children also marked the occasion and drew participants from neighbouring communities.

After the procession, parishioners often returned to a hall or church basement where they partook in a large dinner comprised of traditional foods. A bonfire, music and dancing rounded out the evening, and were all a part of this important cultural occasion. The event is still celebrated, but the bonfire and outdoor socialization remains the most important part of the activity.

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