La Fête Nationale du Québec, la Saint-Jean, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day... June 24 is a statutory holiday of many names. But whatever you call it, it's one of Montreal's favorite days of the year.
A chance to honor Quebec's unique heritage, identity and history, June 24 is a statutory holiday for Montrealers and Quebecers of every creed, color and mother tongue.
So if you feel blessed to be part of a culture that affords residents a language and lifestyle unlike anywhere else in North America, don't be shy to get out and celebrate. Folks new to the city are also invited to join in the all-inclusive festivities.
And since it's a statutory holiday, many businesses shut down for the day so don't forget to consult my list of what's open and closed on the Fête Nationale in Montreal, a list I've improved and built upon every single year since 2009.
So. How do locals celebrate la Fête Nationale du Québec?
La Fête Nationale 2018: The Montreal Parade (Défilé de la Saint-Jean)
The défilé de la Fête nationale -aka défilé de la Saint-Jean- is a longstanding annual parade celebrating the history and beauty of Quebec culture, a tradition 184 years in the running according to organizers.
Surprise gifts are often handed out to onlookers who get there early. Apples and tree saplings from the 2015 edition spring to mind. Attendees are also more than welcome to walk with the parade. Just wait until the tail end of the parade reaches your spot and start marching along.
La Fête Nationale 2018: Le Grand Spectacle
A Fête Nationale wouldn't be complete without Montreal's annual free outdoor concert Le Grand Spectacle. Details on where and when the the 2018 edition is held will be revealed as we close in on June 24, 2018.
In 2017 as in 2016, organizers shook things up a little. Rather than hold Le Grand Spectacle right after the Fête nationale parade on June 24 in Parc Maisonneuve as it had for years, Le Grand Spectacle 2017 happened the day before, on June 23, 2017 smack in the middle of Montreal's summer festival hub Place des Festivals.
As is tradition, only one language is spoken (or sung in) at the event: French.
Legendary Quebec singers Robert Charlebois and Claude Dubois were by Philippe Brach, Charlotte Cardin, Patrice Michaud, Émily Bégin, Gardy Fury, La Bronze, Shauit and Alaclair Ensemble on stage as of 9 p.m. June 24, 2017. The 2018 lineup will be revealed a few weeks before the show.
Fête Nationale 2018: Montreal Bonfire
The tradition of lighting a bonfire around the summer solstice goes back centuries. How does it relate to Quebec's Fête Nationale? Loosely is one way of putting it. I looked into its fiery history and found a paper trail dating back at least 2,000 years.
Reviving, as of 2013, the French tradition of lighting a bonfire on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (aka La Saint-Jean) as Quebec's New France settlers did in the 17th century, Montreal's official Fête nationale bonfire ran the eve of June 23, 2017 in the Olympic Park as of 7 p.m.
But it's not the only place in Montreal planning to light one. More on that after the jump.
Details on the 2018 edition will be revealed a week before La Fête Nationale.
Fête Nationale 2018: Neighborhood Celebrations on La Saint-Jean
Fête Nationale festivities, notably Montreal's annual défilé de la Saint-Jean and Grand Spectacle, wouldn't be complete without the statutory holiday's city-wide neighborhood bashes, aka fêtes de quartiers. Districts across Montreal celebrate la Saint-Jean on June 23 and June 24, 2018 with fireworks, bonfires, face-painting, games for kids, food, live shows and more. Find a local celebration near you. Events are free.
Fête Nationale 2018: Chinatown Street Fair
So you've checked out the Grand Spectacle, gawked at the parade and want to witness the bonfire later in the evening. But there's this big hole of time in between events. Now what?
I`m not entirely sure why but every Fête Nationale in Montreal, at least since I've been on the beat, features a Chinatown street fair.
Fête Nationale 2018: Relax in the Gay Village
Fête Nationale 2018: Jerk Food Festival
From noon to 9 p.m., locals took in in live reggae and jerk chicken inside the soccer complexe at 775 1st Avenue in Lachine courtesy of the 2017 Jerk Food Festival.
Whether the Jerk Food Festival returns in 2018 remains to be seen.
Fête Nationale 2018: Marché des Possibles Opening Party
Mile End's annual Marché des Possibles proposed a Saint-Jean-Baptiste opening party weekend June 24 and June 25, 2017 with live music, yoga, music workshops, and food.
Whether the Marché des Possibles returns in 2018 and whether it will have its opening party Fête Nationale weekend remains to be seen.