Growing up on a farm near the French-Canadian village of Morinville, Alberta, I thought it only natural that Frontier Daze, as the local summer fair, would be held in late June. Only later did I make the link between the fair and St. Jean-Baptiste, patron of the local parish.
It turns our that I was right in the first place. Having a feast at mid-summer in France and elsewhere reaches back thousands of years, before the arrival of Christianity. Once Christianity took hold, the celebration of St. John the Baptist’s birth was established on this day. In France this day was a highlight of the year, with bonfires and huge celebrations. In New France this day has been celebrated since French explorers first arrived.
The day also has links to the start of wedding season. An old French call and response song Le ruban de la mariée begins with a reference to this day:
Voici la Saint Jean
La grande journée
Où tous les amants
Vont à l’assemblée
[Today is the feast of St. John, the great day when all the lovers go to the gathering.]
As it is with so many things, the importance of the feast in France died with the ancien regime, but was preserved in Canada. Even though the religious aspects of the feast have been dulled over the years, the celebration has only grown in importance for the people of Quebec, and for those of French origin across the country.