Canada – Woke Up This Morning Thinking I’d Celebrate St-Jean, Ended Up Celebrating National Aboriginal Day – It’s All Part of the Same Thing, Really – 24 June 2012

Happy St-Jean-Baptiste Day, Quebecers (and francophones elsewhere)! Owing to some logistical difficulties coordinating with my ex about where I was going to be this weekend (I had thought the kids were coming here, turns out I had to go out to their house), I was not able to take the kids to official St-Jean activities this weekend as I had planned. I still haven’t really done St-Jean-Baptiste, despite years in Quebec…I wanted to turn that around this year, as I do have two perfectly bilingual children and would probably not feel so tremendously Anglo if I was hanging out with them. Anyway, maybe next year. I can still hear people celebrating out at Parc Fontaine, and every once in a while, one buzzes by the house in a car waving a fleur-de-lisée…so I’m not entirely out of the loop.

But we did have time for the other outing I had planned for the kids today, to go see the “Dragon Boat” races at Mooney’s Bay in Ottawa. That was fun – though I think the kids enjoyed dunking their feet in the bay itself more than watching the boat races. However, the real fun was on our way to and from Mooney’s Bay, when we walked past the National Aboriginal Day arts exposition. I didn’t really know that was going on, or indeed that there even is a National Aboriginal Day. (Actually, it was the 21st of June, but the celebrations were still going on this weekend.)

I’ve been aware of St-Jean-Baptiste Day ever since arriving in these parts, and I love the fact that Quebecers, though they do not formally have their own country, have their own national day. Ostensibly, those of us whose first language is not French are included in that day, now more officially inclusive and called the “Fête nationale du Québec”…but in the other Canadian provinces, the St-Jean is also celebrated and is more of an ethnic francophone thing.

Presumably National Aboriginal Day is more of a celebration of the First Nations communities within Canada (that is, more like St-Jean outside of Quebec) than a celebration of any would-be independent states (that is, more like the St-Jean in Quebec). But either way, I’m bothered that I haven’t paid attention to it for as long as I have.

The kids had a great time there, mostly at the place where they ran around inside (not making this up) big inflatable hamster spheres. But there was a lot of good music there as well, some more traditional events like powwow dancing competition and lacrosse exhibitions, and of course traditional costumes and clothing.

After I got home, I read this Wikipedia article I’m linking here about National Aboriginal Day, and I’m thinking perhaps this turned out to be as good of an experience as taking the kids to St-Jean celebrations would have been. The Québécois, after all, are not the only nation-within-a-nation in this place…something virtually all the indépendantistes in this province seem to ignore (except Daniel Turp, a virtue for which I have always credited him).

I would point out one other tidbit in this article, which is that, after National Aboriginal Day and the St-Jean, there is one other “Celebrate Canada” day taking place before Canada Day arrives on the first of July. That is “Canadian Multiculturalism Day”. As an American-Canadian, you would think I would know _that_ day existed as well.

I did not. I am equally delighted to know that it does. Maybe I’ll give the Fourth a skip and celebrate that this year.

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