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Montreal parties: St. Jean Baptiste

(Added 26 March 2006)

Allegorical float, circa 1930 – ©Société historique de Saint-Henri

St.-Jean-Baptiste celebrations
24 June

“Following a tradition the origin of which is lost in antiquity, many people, among them the Gauls, lit fires to celebrate the summer solstice. According to the Jesuit Relations and the Journal des Jésuites, this tradition was revived on the banks of the St Lawrence in 1636. In 1646 the Journal reported that ‘on 23 June the fire for St-Jean was lit at half-past eight in the evening… One heard five cannon shots and two or three discharges from muskets.’

It is not known why St-Jean-Baptiste came to be considered the patron saint of French Canada. One legend has it that a great many French-Canadians bearing that given name persuaded the journalist and patriot Ludger Duvernay to adopt it as the name of the national society of French-Canadians which he founded in 1834. In any case that was the name he chose, and the St-Jean-Baptiste Association (St-Jean-Baptiste Society from 1914 on) of Montreal took the maple leaf and the beaver as its emblems. The founding was celebrated 24 June 1834 by a banquet to which 60 guests were invited – Irish, US, and Canadian.”

“Twice the celebrations achieved exceptional dimensions. In 1874 60,000 visitors, half of them Franco-Americans, invaded Montreal to celebrate in grand style the 40th anniversary of the founding of the St-Jean-Baptiste Association and to join in a huge national convention of French-Canadians… The minutes of the association mention for the first time floats, numbering 15 on that occasion, and also 31 bands in the procession.”

This article is 3 of 10 entries originally published here on Reading Montreal as part of the series Leisure posts Montreal Parties

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