St Jean Baptiste – Fête Nationale … What is it?

st jean baptiste day

Growing up, the only thing I knew about St. Jean Baptiste Day was that it meant the school year was over. I never remember learning about it in school, and I moved to the USA when I was in eight grade. I could tell you almost anything you wanted to know about North Carolina and American history though. I often wondered if I wasn’t as aware of the holiday as I should be a younger child because I grew up in an anglophone and protestant town.
Asking my mother, who is French Canadian, gave me the answer … “It’s Québec’s birthday”.
Okay, but why the Saint?
I thought Québec and Canada were proud of their secularism?! Was that the day that Québec was founded? I was the kind of kid who wanted to know more.

The History Behind Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day

Held yearly on June 24th, Saint Jean Baptiste Day is now known in Québec as la Fête Nationale du Québec. It has been a statutory holiday in Québec since 1925, although it had been celebrated in North America since the early days of New France.
Originally, it was celebrated as a religious holiday.
It coincides with the summer solstice. Pagans would light fires to commemorate the longest day of the year. In typical early Christian fashion, they took over the celebration and re-branded it, associating it with St John the Baptist.

In Québec as early as 1843, it started as a religiously led political celebration. There would be a mass, a banquet and a parade led by member of Saint Jean Baptiste Societies. It evolved over time to include other cultural organizations, students and professional orders. The last float would usually have a curly headed young child representing St John, and children dressed up as Jacques Cartier and an aboriginal person. Over time, more people from early French Canadian history were added.
In 1908, Saint John the Baptist was named the patron saint of Québec.

During the 1960s and 70s Québec started to move away from the relgious aspect of the holiday and began to focus on the arts and culture. The name was actually changed to la Fête Nationale du Québec in 1977 to remove the religious connotations.

quebec flag
Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste © Morgan/ Flickr

These days (well maybe not this year, thanks COVID 19) la Fête Nationale is still sometimes called La Saint Jean and is a day for proudly displaying the blue-and-white fleur-de-lys flag. Celebrations include parades, festivals, outdoor concerts, parties, and fireworks. It marks the beginning of the summer season with the end of school, camping trips and get togethers.

So now I know, if my kids ever ask, I can give them more of a background on the holiday. Google Calendar calls it St. Jean Baptiste.

history of st jean baptiste day

Rachel Carson and Her Contributions to the Environmentalism Movement

Who was Rachel Carson?

In a nutshell — my hero!

Rachel Carson is the American marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose book, Silent Spring, is credited with advancing the environmentalism movement.

After World War II, the world went crazy over chemicals. Industries and governments believed that humans could tame and control nature through the use of synthetic chemicals. People believed that DDT was a miracle and it was severely overused.

Rachel Carson, who had already wrote several biology and naturalist books and conservation pamphlets for the US government, decided to write Silent Spring to expose the dangers of widespread DDT usage. In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson dared to ask the hard questions about whether and why humans had the right to control nature; to decide who lives or dies, to poison or to destroy non-human life.

Chemical companies sought to discredit her as a Communist or hysterical woman with an affinity for cats.

Her tenacity helped in shaping a growing environmental consciousness.
The Clean Air Act became law in 1963.
In late 1969, President Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act, regarded as the most important piece of national environmental legislation. 

Her efforts sparked the movement leading to the establishment of Earth Day.

Learning Resources

What kind of Mom who studies the environment be if I didn’t turn this into an opportunity to teach the kids about Rachel Carson and her contributions to the Environmental Movement? Especially on Earth Day?!

Rachel Carson colouring sheet
I will be adding this into Teghan’s learning activities for Earth Day.

Rachel Carson learning unit on Brain Pop
Geared towards upper elementary kids.

Rachel Carson facts and worksheet bundle on kidskonnect
Another one for upper elementary kids.
With a basic membership, you can download the sample. It’s only $5-ish USD a month, but we already have a few subscriptions for learning resources.

The kids love watching The Who Was Show on Netflix, so I was thrilled when I found the book on Rachel Carson. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to get it for a while due to it not being considered essential.

Do you know this book?

I once, by chance, picked up a kids book at the library.
It seemed to be older, maybe from the 90’s.
The story is an allegory to Silent Spring and even mentions the book and the dangers of DDT after the story.
The story involves a kingdom that prides itself on their gardens and flowers. They didn’t really have much of a bug problem, but a wizard showed up and convinced the king to use his magic powder. People started getting covered in spots and sores, people were getting sick and even the wizard got sick. In the end, the princess convinces everyone to stop using the powder and people get better.

It was about two years ago.
The librarians have no idea, book store employees aren’t able to help me.
I’ve asked other parents and even university professors.
Have you by chance read this book?
Let me know in the comments.

Happy 50th Earth Day!