By Cassie MacDonell
Local Journalism Initiative
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is on Friday, which means Quebecers will gather across the province to celebrate Quebec and French culture. Whether francophone or anglophone, one common sentiment was shared amongst Townshippers interviewed by The Record: Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is an opportunity to be with friends, family, and the community.
Phillipe Dion, Sherbrooke francophone, explained that his younger self viewed Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day as a “massive party.” However, his views have since changed. “Now, I see it as a celebration of Quebec’s background, our culture. I love discovering new Quebecois music. You can get together with your friends and be with the community,” he said, “you learn more and more as you grow.” This year, Dion does not have any big plans in anticipation for the day, but intends to celebrate nonetheless.
Lea Brault, who also lives in Sherbrooke, had alternative celebrations for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day throughout her life. Although she was born in Valleyfield Quebec, and resided there for the first two years of her life, she was raised in France, Germany, Switzerland, and England before moving to the Eastern Townships two years ago. In Europe, she learned English in school, which she is fluent in, and French from her francophone parents, in addition to German and Spanish. “I do still consider myself a francophone, though,” she said.
Despite being miles away from Quebec, she still celebrated the holiday throughout her years in Europe. “We’d go out to a restaurant or have a bonfire,” she said. During the few times she was able to visit Quebec while she was living abroad, she would celebrate at her grandfather’s house with fireworks.
Brault celebrated her first Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day as a Quebec resident in 2021. “Last year I was in Sherbrooke and it was the Stanley Cup. I had so much fun. I felt very Quebecois,” she laughed.
Brault expressed her mixed feelings about this year’s holiday. “Before, celebrating Saint-Jean Baptiste meant I’m a proud Quebecois. I never really got to come to Canada so it was really exciting,” she said. “Now with everything going on, it’s less exciting,” said Brault, expressing her discomfort towards Bill 96, a controversial language law reform aimed at protecting the French language in Quebec. “I feel like it’s a little strange to celebrate a place I think is messing up a bit right now,” she said.
Brault does not have set plans for Saint Jean Baptist Day, although she wishes to spend time with friends and family.
Kyla Pascale-Blanchard, North Hatley anglophone, explained that she never really celebrated Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. “I celebrate Canada Day more than St. Jean, although I love the day off,” she laughed. “It’s definitely more of a French culture celebration, which I think is great since Quebec is predominately French.” Unfortunately, Pascale-Blanchard will not have the day off this year, so she plans to spend the day working.
Maxime Gilbert, Sherbrooke francophone, offered her interpretation of the holiday. “It’s a day to eat poutine,” she laughed, “and basically celebrate Quebec culture. It’s a day to spend time with family and friends,” she said. “The day to be proud of our nationality, and speak some French,” her friend chimed in. “My family never really celebrated (Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day) when I was younger, which is weird because I am from Quebec City, which has some of the biggest celebrations,” said Gilbert. She explained that she began celebrating more once she entered high school. On Friday, Gilbert will spend have a barbeque with her friends.
Andrew Phillips, anglophone and Bishop’s University student, grew up in Ontario but temporarily resides in Lennoxville. Hailing from Ontario, he has not yet been in Quebec for a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebration. “I think Quebec culture is so great, but as someone who doesn’t speak very good French and as someone who comes from a different province, I feel a bit weird attending big French culture events,” he said. “I think the day is great. I just want to be able to speak French and communicate to people in their language on the day that celebrates Quebec,” he said. Instead, he plans to enjoy a barbeque with friends and enjoy the (what’s supposed to be) nice weather.
Michel Lauzon, Compton-Stanstead francophone, explained that Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is all about spending time with friends, family, neighbours, and the community. “St. Jean is something all people attend, as a collectivity,” he said. He explained how he saw the day as a day to be inclusive of all Quebec communities. On Friday, he will celebrate with family at locally hosted activities, and on Saturday he will spend time celebrating with his neighbours.