Quebec’s National Holiday or Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is a holiday celebrated annually on June 24, the feast day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. In Quebec, it is a public holiday with festivities occurring on June 23 and 24 which are publicly financed and organized by the National Holiday Organizing Committee. June 24 is also celebrated as a festival of French Canadian culture in other Canadian provinces and the United States.
The feast day of Saint John the Baptist or Midsummer was a very popular event in the old regime of France. Midsummer festivals, such as those linked with the June solstice, were held in Europe for thousands of years. When people converted to Christianity, elements of these festivals were combined with feast days for Christian saints. It is still celebrated as a religious feast day in several countries, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Spain, Latvia and Lithuania.
In France, the celebrations around the feast day of Saint John the Baptist were widely enjoyed and French colonists introduced these traditions to North America. The first celebrations occurred on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River on the evening of June 23, 1636, with a bonfire and five cannon shots.