Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day: 10 Things Every Canadian Should Know About Quebec

Once the snow melts and the sun starts shining, often our thoughts turn quickly to shorter sleeves and longer weekends. Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Day and Labour Day plans start to take shape, giving us a chance to escape the everyday and venture to different parts of our cities, provinces and country.

But one celebration that often gets overlooked (at least in comparison to the others) is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, celebrated June 24 in Quebec and by French Canadians across Canada and the U.S. The tradition was brought to Canada by French settlers celebrating the traditional feast day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

With an office in Montreal and many great clients based in La Belle Province as well, June 24 is a day marked on the KLC calendar. But like many other Canadian companies, we have some non-Franco members of the team that may be unfamiliar with some of the Quebec traditions including St. Jean Baptiste day.

So – in celebration of this year’s Saint-Jean-Baptist Day, KLC’s resident Franco-expert Anne Lachance has teamed up with resident-uninformed Anglo, Matt Roth for what can only be described as a Quebec-Based Battle Royale of knowledge, facts and understanding versus opinions, stereotype and misunderstanding about La Belle Province.

Disclaimer:  Please take the below with a grain of salt when planning your next trip east of Ottawa. Content below may, or may not, be fact-based.

10 Things Every Canadian Should Know About Quebec – Matt vs. Anne

1. Poutine

Matt: While becoming a hotbed of innovation, the pinnacle of Quebec invention was completed in 1957, when culinary icon/heartthrob Fernand Lachance of Warwick’s Le Café Ideal created Canada’s national delicacy, Poutine. In French, the word “Poutine” loosely translates to “A Mess”, which is what I am happy to look and feel like immediately after eating a healthy serving.Anne

Anne: According to Anne Lachance, relative of Fernand Lachance (RIP) and expert in all matters poutine, we can confirm with great certainty that poutine was invented by the Lachances!

2. Hockey

Matt: The logos for the Montreal Expos and the Quebec Nordiques placed #1 and #2 in VH1s 2009 list of the Top 100 Logos for Defunct Franchises of All Time (the logo for the Hartford Whalers – a masterpiece in its own right – placed a distant third). There is a secret plaque commemorating this achievement hidden in a forgotten tunnel somewhere below McGill University.

Anne: The Expos and the Nordiques? Clearly so passé, now it’s all about the Ramparts! Have you heard of Guy Lafleur, Patrick Roy, Michel Goulet and Simon Gagné? Thank you Ramparts.

3. July 1

Matt: In addition to celebrating Canada Day on July 1, Québecois also celebrate ‘Moving Day” – the one day a year when everybody in the province moves apartments. This is another long-standing tradition brought to Quebec in 1867 from France, where the French realized in 1836 what the rest of us are still yet to admit – that moving during a snowstorm is the definition of amateur.

Anne: Canada Day is also Moving Day in Quebec. The day some moving companies can make or break their year financially. Need to get rid of furniture? Leave it behind – someone will pick it up.

4. Drinking Age

Matt: The legal drinking age across the province is 18 years old, which we suspect has made Quebec the top destination for tourism for the coveted 18-18.999999 year old demographic in Canada. Tip of the hat to Moose Jaw for coming in a surprising second in those rankings.

Anne: The Quebec secret: The legal drinking age is 18, however, most young Quebecers don’t quite know this. At least in our day… 18 was merely a suggestion. Particularly when purchasing beer at the corner Dep.

5. Child Care

Matt: Quebec has Universal Child Care, meaning parents pay a maximum of $7 per child per day for quality care in the province. No joke to be made here – that is awesome and should be a priority for every other provincial government across the country.

Anne: Child care is amazingly affordable in Quebec. Child care is less expensive than doggy/pet day care.

6. Bonhomme

Matt: Bonhomme is the King of Quebec City’s world-renowned Winter Festival, Carnival. This has made him a global icon but has left him sadly isolated from parts of his family – particularly his second cousin, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and his half-brothers, Every Snowman Ever Made. Heavy lies the crown.

Anne: The Bonhomme with his great generosity allows for Quebecois and tourists to enjoy a glass or two of Caribou, the official beverage of the winter Carnival. Here is the recipe:  red wine, whisky and maple syrup.  Meant to be enjoyed outside at -40Celsius.

7. More Hockey 

Matt: The NHL’s Montreal Canadiens hold a record 24 Stanley Cup wins, yet somehow (bias alert) are still not as good a franchise as the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Anne: Maple Leafs = 13 Stanley Cups, Les Canadiens = 24. Any questions? Go Habs!

8. Music 

Matt: In 1999 the Quebec legislature passed a law making it illegal in all corners of the province to hold a junior high or high school dance without playing Roch Voisine’s “I’ll Always Be There” at least twice. While highly unusual, we don’t know there to be one complaint filed concerning this measure.

Anne: In 1999, public schools in Ontario were mandated to sing Oh Canada, our national anthem. Fun fact:  lyrics and music were written by two French Canadians: Adolphe-Basile Routhier and Calixa Lavallée.

9. Activities 

Quebec is home to a little-known Extreme Sports challenge attempted by thousands each year called the “Trois-Rivieres Trifecta”. Each March, athletes in the best shape of their lives come from all corners of the earth to descend on the province to complete three physically and mentally demanding tasks within a very tight 24-hour window. To complete the challenge, athletes must:

  1. Complete summit to base runs of the three longest trails at Mont-Saint-Anne (no chalet breaks allowed)
  2. Hang no less than seven, and no more than 10, while surfing in the Saint Lawrence River near Rimouski, and
  3. Catch an on-time rush hour commercial flight out of Montréal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Participants must leave no more than 90 minutes between departing their Old Montreal hotel and the scheduled flight departure time, and must use a local taxi service that will only travel along the 720/20. To date there are hundreds known to have completed the first two tasks, but none known to have completed the third. Maybe you could be first!

Anne: Thank you for speaking about the tourist traps. The real activity is to treat yourself to a mini wardrobe makeover from La Maison Simons. What Quebecer doesn’t love to see that green box and silver shopping bag!?

10. Tourism

Matt: If you’re an Anglo-Ontarian like me, you’ve likely spent much time in Montreal and some time in Gatineau, Hull and Quebec City as well. But those locations account for roughly one per cent of what is a vast and beautiful province filled with rich tradition, culture and history, that we often fail to take full advantage of. Maybe this Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day could be the catalyst for you to look into a trip to Val d’Or, Montmagny, Saguenay or beyond?

Anne: Attend Le Cirque du Soleil in Bai St-Paul, visit Céline Dion’s childhood house in Charlemagne, drop in to the Sydney Crosby Arena in Rimouski or of course, enjoy an original poutine in Warwick!

 

 

Anne’s final words: The H is silent, TH is a D (e.g. my fadder and my modder), parties are in the kitchen, vous is how you address granny, tu is how you address your friends and Statistics Canada predictions are that in 2023, 43.5 per cent of Quebecers will live in Florida, driven by their desperate search for decent foie gras and poutine!

 

(Special thank you to Franco advisors Valerie Laflamme and Nathalie Pelletier for their contributions to this piece.)