27 June 2006

Fête nationale du Québec

This is pretty interesting stuff Shows how things can get politicized. This is from Wikopedia:

The Fête nationale du Québec ("Quebec National Holiday") is an official holiday of Quebec, Canada. The festivities occur on June 23 and June 24 and are organized by the Comité organisateur de la fête nationale ("national holiday organizing committee"). Originally, June 24 was a holiday honouring the patron saint of Quebec, St. John the Baptist, and in ordinary conversation the day is still often called la Saint-Jean by Quebecers.
Although the holiday has official status only in Quebec, it is also celebrated by francophones in other Canadian provinces and in the United States as a festival of French Canadian culture. In these contexts, it is more often called Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

The origins of the traditional festivities are more than 2000 years old. Among several European peoples, the summer solstice was the object of pagan celebrations. Fires were lit during the night in this period of the year when the days are longest. With the arrival of Christianity, the celebration of the event remained; however, it took a new spiritual significance. The celebration of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste was a very popular event in the France of the Ancien régime, and it is celebrated as a religious feast day in several countries, like Denmark.
The tradition landed in North America with the first French colonists. According to the Jesuit Relations, the first celebrations of this Christian day in New France took place around 1638.

In Lower Canada, the celebration of Saint-Jean-Baptiste day took a patriotic tone in 1834 on the initiative of one of the founders of the newspaper La Minerve, Ludger Duvernay, who would later become the first president of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society. In the spring of 1834, Duvernay and other Patriotes attended the celebrations of the first St. Patrick's Day in Montreal. This would have given him and others the idea of organizing something similar for all the Canadiens and their friends.
In 1834 George-Étienne Cartier's "Ô Canada! mon pays, mes amours" was first sung during a grand patriotic banquet gathering about sixty francophones and anglophones of Montreal in the gardens of lawyer John McDonnell, near the old Windsor Station. The "Canada" in the song refers to Lower Canada, today's southern Quebec. Present at this banquet were many reformist politicians such as Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan, Louis Perrault, Thomas Storrow Brown, Édouard-Étienne Rodier, Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, and the mayor of Montreal Jacques Viger.
Following the defeat of the insurrectional movement during the Lower Canada Rebellion and the military repressions which followed, the day was no longer celebrated for several years.
In 1843, Duvernay established the charitable Association Saint-Jean Baptiste in order to have the Saint-Jean Baptiste celebrated that year. The association was chartered in 1849 with the mission of promoting social and moral progress. (See Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society.)
The celebrations were supported by the Catholic church and started to be primarily religious around that time. Fires were still lit at night, but also the first Saint-Jean-Baptiste parades were organized. They became an important tradition over time. The procession of allegorical floats was introduced in 1874. From 1914 to 1923 the processions were not held.
On June 24, 1880, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society organized the gathering of all francophone communities across North America. The event was first Congrès national des Canadiens-Français. On this occasion, the citizens of Quebec City were the first ones to hear the "Ô Canada" of Calixa Lavallée, based on a poem by a local judge, Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The song was commissioned by the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society. It was well received but did not become a widely known song for many years. (English words were later written for a royal tour in 1901. In 1980, "O Canada" became the official national anthem of Canada.)
In 1908, Pope Pius X designated John the Baptist as the patron saint of the French-Canadian province.
After the Quiet Revolution, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day became very political. The religious symbolism associated with the celebrations was rejected by the younger generations.
In 1968, an incident occurred during the traditional St-Jean-Baptiste parade. With the new Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in attendance on the eve of a general election, a riot broke out, and 290 people were arrested. Trudeau was filmed refusing to take cover or leave the grandstand when the rioters pelted it with rocks, as well as bottles containing paint and acid. The scene was broadcast on Radio-Canada's and CBC's evening news. Many saw it as an open act of courage, and it impressed the electorate. The incident contributed to his Liberal Party winning a significant majority the next day.
In 1969, the little St. John the Baptist icon was destroyed during a riot. This led to the interruption of the parade, which did not take place the next year.

Until the 1970s, Dominion Day, which fell on 1 July, was little more than a day away from work for most Canadians. To respond to the Quebec nationalist reappropiation of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, the federal government promoted 1 July as a national holiday for Canada. It did so by furnishing funds for lavish celebrations and by changing the name of the holiday to Canada Day.
Within Quebec, federalists and sovereignists have tended to use the Fête nationale du Québec to promote identification with Quebec, while their opponents have used Canada Day celebrations to stress loyalty to Canada as a whole.
Canada Day parades in Montreal attract crowds composed mostly of anglophones and recent immigrants. The battle of the holidays has caused the two levels of government to compete with each other in financing public spectacles (e.g., outdoor jazz concerts), especially when the Parti Québécois held the majority of the seats at the National Assembly of Quebec.
Most people, however, use the two holidays for apolitical recreational activities amongst friends and family, appreciating the flood of free entertainment provided in late June and early July.

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