History of St. Jean Baptiste Day

What do people do to celebrate Saint Jean Baptiste Day? The festivities range from large scale public celebrations, music concerts, parades and fireworks displays, to small family or neighborhood happenings, picnics, barbecues, bonfires, and games. Church bells ring and public dances are held.

In 1908 St. John the Baptist was designated as the patron Saint of Quebec, re-enforcing the connection between Saint Jean Baptiste and French-Canadian patriotism.

During and after World War I, Saint Jean Baptiste Day was barely celebrated, but in 1925 Saint Jean Baptiste Day became a provincial holiday in Quebec. After a period in the 1960s, when the structure of society in Quebec changed greatly, this holiday became very political. However, in 1977 Saint Jean Baptiste Day was recognized as the National holiday of Quebec and the mood of the celebrations gradually moved towards that of the secular celebrations in modern time.

For this 1925 Saint Jean the Baptiste Day celebration (above), the traditional bonfire took on magnificent proportions. A huge wooden tower of hewn timbers was built. After it was finished and topped off with a small tree, photographs were taken showing several men standing at various places on the tower, giving clues as to the tower’s height. Not counting the little tree at the top, the tower appears to have been about 30 feet high.

The photographs, which were exhibited at this year’s picnic, are part of the Frenchtown Heritage Museum and Research Center Archives.