It’s Fête nationale in Québec!

June 24, 2024

24th June marks the start of summer. But for les québécois, it’s also a public holiday known as la Fête nationale, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, or more colloquially, la Saint-Jean! For those living in Québec, it is a time to celebrate the best of what the local culture has to offer.  

There are hundreds of events being held in municipalities across the province, all ranging from small friendly barbecues to huge outdoor productions and firework displays. People come out in drones to get together, to enjoy the sunshine and a good show with friends, and to have a refreshing drink… Or two!

Here’s how to join in the festivities during a cruise in la Belle Province.

In this article, you will learn all about: 

  • The origin of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
  • What to do during the event 
  • Celebrating la Saint-Jean on the Plaines d’Abraham

Taking a trip back to New France

Think this fun-filled tradition was established recently? Think again! The origin of the day is rooted in both the pagan solstice celebration, and the religious feast of Saint John the Baptist, a popular event in France way back in the day. This tradition was brought over by the French colonists as they arrived in Québec to settle. In fact, there are records dating back to the 1600s of bonfires being lit and cannons being shot on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. These early settlers knew how to party! 


The holiday took a patriotic tone in 1834, and the celebration of the patron saint of Québécois was revived by patriotic associations to generate pride and promote their  culture. Initially limited to small gatherings in people’s homes, the event grew, and the first street parade took place in Montréal in 1843. The tradition of finding a curly-haired child to represent Saint John the Baptist while  holding a sheep on a parade float was born! We are even told that being selected for the job was quite an honour and garnered proud mum some serious bragging rights! 


Since then, this day was renamed la Fête nationale and is no longer a religious event, but rather a time to celebrate Québec’s culture, history and language. And celebrate they do indeed!

 Say hello to summer on June 24th

To ensure everyone gets an opportunity to take part in the festivities, la Fête nationale was recognized as a statutory public holiday for all. 


Tourists visiting during this time are likely to come across lively crowds dressed in blue and white and holding the Québec fleur-de-lys flag. Picnics, family-friendly events, face paintings, bonfires, street performances, dancing, fireworks… If you manage to be bored during la Fête nationale, you’re clearly not in Québec! 


Events are being held across the province, with over 1 000 shows and hundreds of bonfires organized on the day. Now that’s one big party! Families and neighbourhoods also gather together to host their own smaller celebrations, with campfires and barbecues. Make sure you grab a steamed hot dog and a poutine, and wash it all down with a local microbrew!


Looking for the biggest, most spectacular event? Head to Montréal or the capital, Québec City, to be part of the fun.

 Bringing history to life on the Plaines

Today, the Plaines d’Abraham is a beautiful park featuring cycling and walking paths. These take visitors through a well-maintained historical site, with old watchtowers and cannon replicas dotted along the way.


But back in 1759, the area was the site of the famous battle of the Plaines, which determined the fate of New France and its people. Its historical significance cannot be understated for les québécois. No wonder it was chosen as one of the main sites of the Fête nationale event! Each year to mark the occasion a huge outdoor production is set up. Dozens of signers, musicians and poets perform, bringing Québec’s culture to life to the delights of thousands of enthusiastic spectators. The cherry on the Sunday? A breathtaking fireworks display over the Saint Lawrence River. 

Whichever of our nine ports of call you choose to visit during la Fête nationale, your guests will be treated to an abundance of good vibes  and great music. The holiday is a deeply rooted tradition in québécois culture, and it reflects the values people hold dear: inclusion, respect, and above all, fun!

Find out more about the Cruise the Saint Lawrence sustainable development guidelines on our sustainability page.