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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund


Francophone Edukit

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Fête Saint-Jean Baptiste


Fête Saint-Jean

Other Feasts


The tradition of having a bonfire and staying up of most of the night has its origins in the mists of time, and it is often thought that the feast day of Saint John the Baptist celebrated by the Catholic Church was originally a pagan celebration.

Since the days of New France, Saint John the Baptist has been considered the patron saint of French-Canadians, and his feast day (24 June) was instituted as a national holiday in Quebec by Ludger Durvernay in 1834. The custom was carried over to New England by the large community of migrant workers and throughout the rest of Canada by French-Canadians.

Early French-speaking settlers were not long in establishing the Saint-Jean Baptiste Society in Alberta (a militant nationalistic organization) but it eventually lost the nationalistic fervour which dominated the organization in Quebec. Today in Quebec, the religious aspect of the holiday has been removed from the celebration and the day is known as the National Holiday (la Fête Nationale). In France, where bonfires and all-night celebrations were traditionally held, the day is now celebrated through music; everyone who can play is expected to take out his instrument to entertain friends and neighbours.

24 June is still celebrated as the Saint-Jean Baptiste Day in some regions of Alberta, but it does not rally the hundreds it used to. Nevertheless, the day has become more of an occasion to celebrate the summer solstice.

The 2004 Saint-Jean festivities of the Bonnyville franco community, which were held at the Camp Saint-Louis on the shores of Moose Lake, have been celebrated as long as anyone can remember. It seems that Saint John has been celebrated in the area since the arrival of the first settlers. The region has long hours of daylight at the solstice, with only a few hours of darkness. As the winter solstice is the reverse, the local residents make the most of the summer light. In the Peace River region, where they very nearly have the midnight sun, residents also celebrate the Saint-Jean-Baptiste and the summer solstice.


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