St. Jean Baptiste day celebration in Montreal, 2006. Photo/Wikimedia Commons

In honour of St. Jean Baptiste

By  Julie Hall, Youth Speak News
  • June 23, 2016

St. John the Baptist, the Jewish preacher who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan, is celebrated annually in Quebec on his feast day, June 24. It’s a national holiday often accompanied by different Quebecois traditions. 

As a Catholic French-Canadian I firmly believe in both the celebration of French history within the beautiful country we all call home, and the honouring of a holy feast day within the Church. I do not however, think these events should be paired up.

I was born and raised surrounded by the French language, and I fully support having a day to celebrate French history within Canada. As a Christian, I also fully support having a day to celebrate the life and teachings of the influential man who was St. John the Baptist. Just not together.

St. John the Baptist became the patron saint of French-speaking Canadians in 1908. In 1977, the St. Jean Baptiste Day celebration was declared the national holiday in Quebec. 

Now a paid statutory holiday within the province, to many people the feast day has lost all of its religious elements. This is unfortunate for everyone, since Quebec’s history is so deeply rooted in Christianity and it deserves to be celebrated as much more than a day of pure partying. There are churches nonetheless that work to keep St. John the Baptist represented amidst the celebrations. Masses are held in many parishes where the teachings of the preacher are reflected upon.

The first celebration in Lower Canada can be traced back to 1646, when a cannon was fired in celebration by the banks of the St. Lawrence River on the evening of June 24. 

St. John the Baptist, humble in nature, was the man who baptized Jesus. He believed in the Messiah, and preached the good news to all those around him. He humbled himself before Jesus, and listened to what He had to say with joy. His courage deserves to be recognized as well. Publicly choosing to reprimand your king for marrying his brother’s wife is no easy task unless rooted in faith. Zealous was he in his teachings about the need for repentance in life to reconcile relationships with God.

Courageous, zealous, faithful, humble, kind. These are what the feast day of St. John the Baptist should be about.

Instead, to most it has turned into merely a day off work. With a more cultural, artistic and unifying feel to the celebrations, the day has become one with a different meaning. The holiday has taken a more secular feel, and it needs to be separated from the feast day to respect both parts equally.

Let us all celebrate the rich cultural history which Canada has, with a day of recognition for French Canadians. On June 24 however, let’s focus on understanding the teachings of St. John the Baptist.

(Hall, 17, is a candidate for first-year social service work at Humber College in Toronto.)

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