Today is Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, an annual celebration of French Canadian culture and something about a baptism.
In 1636, the traditional midsummer feast occurred for the first time on these continental shores, but it was only when Ludger Duvernay saw a Saint-Paddy’s Day parade in 1834 that Quebecers thought about making a holiday celebrating what it means to be Quebecois or Quebecoise. In 1909 Pope Pious X made Jean Baptiste the patron Saint of French Canadians, and the bond was formed. By the time Rene Levesque and the Quiet Revolution got into full swing, the day became la fête nationale.
So, on this legal holiday in Quebec, what is there to do? Little to do with baptizing Jesus, but plenty of fun in the sun (or, rain clouds), especially in Montreal.
The Biodome, Planetarium, Botanical Gardens, and Insectarium will be open for St Jean Baptiste, promising a variety of fun events all day with a flair of science. If the sun comes out, just about every park will have things going on, including circus acts, cultural celebrations, concerts, and so much more, so be sure to check this map to see all the festivities going on near you. How better to celebrate the day of the French Canadian patron saint than with science?
Interactive stations will be set up as early as 1:00PM at the corner of Sherbrooke and Place de Lery, promising slam-poetry from Ivy, line-dancing, and flash mobs. At 2:30PM the parade will take off. There have been hints that this year will begins with French colonists coming out of the sea onto new land, and continue with giant depictions of Paul Chomedey, Jeanne Mance, and Ludger Duvernay, nods to the language, culture, and multiculture, including acrobatics! Don’t miss it! The parade will end at 5:00PM at Parc Maissoneuve. It’s like the Canada Day Parade or the Macy’s Parade but in French and about colonial oppression.
Music will be playing starting in the late afternoon at Parc Maissoneuve, but young artists (Les Étoiles du métro) will begin at 6:30. At 8:45, Le Grand Spectacle will begin, animated by Louis-José Houde, and led by an all-star team of musicians including France D’Amour, Michel Rivard, and Damien Robitaille. For any lover of French-Canadian music (yes, there are some so don’t be a hater), this will be the place to be.
Once Everyone’s Gone to Sleep
Parc Maissoneuve will still be the place to be, with DJs starting at 11PM and playing until late in the evening or early in the morning, depending how you see it (1AM is late for a Tuesday).
Simply wandering around downtown and through the parks will present you with tons of things to do, and if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that beer will be flowing like water. Have a bonne fête, and try to remember to show up for work tomorrow.