I’m about to complete a four and half days weekend. Why? Because here in Quebec, we had a holiday last Thursday: St-Jean-Baptiste. That day is so important for Quebecers that the day off cannot be moved so it is next to a weekend if the actual holiday is in the middle of the week (like Christmas and New Year, but unlike Canada Day.) On June 24th, just about everybody in Quebec has the day off. Even supermarket are closed. Since I had a few hours of overtime in bank, I took Friday off too. I rarely work on Monday mornings, preferring to clock in a little more time the other days to still work full-time but keep my Monday morning for my writing.
St-Jean-Baptiste means huge celebration on the 23rd in Quebec city. Montreal doesn’t celebrate quite as much as us. There are shows all around town. Drinking in the streets is tolerated. The whole city takes airs of bacchanal. To speak frankly, it’s a little crazy.
As an unwritten social rule, you don’t wear red if you go out to party for St-Jean-Baptiste. No, dear readers, it’s just a bad idea. Canada’s color is red. Quebec’s is blue. Wearing red that night is identifying yourself as against Quebec’s independence and you’ll piss people off. It doesn’t matter what is your actual thoughts on the question are. It doesn’t matter if your t-shirt actually has nothing to do with Canada.
Blue, however, is really appreciated. That’s why I don’t go to the big party on Plaine d’Abraham (isn’t it kind of ironic that the big celebration of Quebec’s French identity and difference from Canada is held on the very plains where the city was lost to the British back in the days?)
Don’t get me wrong, if I show up at the party with my blue hair, I’m instantly labelled as an awesome person. It’s pretty neat as strangers tend to offer me free beer. However, as the night goes on and the guys are drunker, my coolness becomes a problem. No, I don’t have blue hair just for St-Jean-Baptiste. No, my blue hair are not meant as an open friendship invitation. No, my blue hair doesn’t give your hands permission to wander. And no, I’d prefer you do not smell my blue hair. You’re so drunk you risk puking in them.
I stay home on St-Jean-Baptiste, which doesn’t mean I don’t get to enjoy a part of the party. Let me share pieces of it with you. Know that for all the French songs I’m about to refer to, the links provided lead to English subtitled YouTube version so don’t be afraid to discover a bit of the music from my corner of the world.
Last Thursday, at about 5, the party began. Buses jammed packed with people started to head for Plains of Abraham to see Les Cowboys Fringants (The Frisky Cowboys). Quebecers like to party and argue serious matters all at once. Most of the buses resounded from Quebec’s Signature “Ohé“. I could hear them from my third story balcony. Poor bus drivers.
The park a block away from my apartment was one of those hosting a show. I cooked dinner with my windows wide open and enjoyed the reggae music from the comfort of my home. I’m sure no one’s mood can resist a reggae version of Kung Fu Fighting (it sounded a bit like The Cimarons’ version). The urge to groove and smile trumps every frown. You just have to bob your head. Add some Bob Marley covers and a few Quebec classic songs (such as hits from Les Colocs (The Roomates)) and you get yourself quite a “be cool, dude” soundtrack.
I prepped dinner with Sabrina while we waited for another of our friends who had to work for the whole evening and was busy the other nights. She arrived at my place at 1:30 am. We had dinner on my balcony. Four courses dinner. Stuffed mushrooms entrée, brochette and Greek salad as the main course, a plate of smelly cheeses* (how French of us) and dessert. We never actually got to dessert since we were too full to eat anymore.
There’s no use trying to sleep on St-Jean-Baptiste’s night when you’re close to the city: people get back home, drunk and yelling, until the morning lights. We stayed up and chatted until 6 am then went to sleep.
And that, dear readers, is how I celebrated St-Jean-Baptiste.
* For those of you who might be interested in cheese, we had smoked Jarlsberg (mild-tasting, pale and ferm Norwegian cheese), a Juraflore comté (dusty-brown exterior, firm pale yellow interior, and a strong and slightly sweet taste you can’t get tired of, made in France) and Caprice des dieux (Gods’ Whim, a very light and creamy cheese that just melts on your tongue, also from France).