June 24th officially signals the start of party time in Montreal..this week-end opens with a double whammy..the Grand Prix and the Fête Nationale (National Holiday); of Saint-Jean-Baptiste patron saint to our fellow french Canadians. All across this great country of ours the french express their cultural pride and rich heritage through colourful parades and high-spirited parties marking Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. These celebrations combine the ancient rites of the summer solstice with the traditional celebration in honour of the Patron Saint of French Canadians, who was officially proclaimed as such by His Holiness Pope Pius X in 1908. To say nothing of the all-weekend drinking..dancing and whopping it up done on our fine streets by everyone under the age of 100…and probably some over.
Next week-end and right on the heels of old Saint Jean..comes Canada Day on July 1st…traditionally known as ‘English’ Canada’s day to get down…but for now..this week-end belongs to the French among us..and in all truth they sure know how to celebrate a national holiday (better than we english do Canada Day imho).
Really though any good standing Canadian citizen worth their party animal weight in Molson Canadian or Labatt 50 (beer) will take advantage of a reason to party…be it in french english or franglais/franglish. So wherever one looks in this beautiful province of Quebec this week-end they’ll see flags flying high & proud off of balconies..car antenna’s and glittering renditions of the fleur dis lis painted on childrens cheeks. Inbetween the world soccer cup games and revving Formula One engines on televison (and the streets-not formula 1’s but souped up fakes)..music can be heard blaring out of open windows from Montreal east to Quebec city and all around the rest of this province.
Downtown streets are sectioned off so foot traffic can rule..and in broken french..tourists can be heard asking for the next cool place to find a drink after hours. The smells of french canadian cuisine and local homegrown skunk (marijuana) wafts from small intimate cafe’s..and 3 in the morning may as well be 3 in the afternoon for all the time people are ‘not paying attention to’ this week-end. Young and old meld together to find equal ground and can often be seen dancing in the streets..toasting to each others health and trading recipes..some legal..some not so illegal if under a certain weight. Yes folks..it’s a damn fine time in my city..when the natives are friendly and could care less what language you speak (most have mellowed in that area anyway)..wish you were here to taste of it.
It’s the kind of time I imagine our Quebec License plate slogan ‘Je me souviens’ or ‘I will remember,’ was made for..a time where nowhere else on the planet looks as good to me or could persuade me to leave.
Too bad it never lasts.
As aforely mentioned..next weekend is Canada day…prior to 1982 it was known as Dominion Day, First of July, Confederation Day, and July the First. Trust the english to over-compensate eh..though now we like to keep everything nice and non confusing…so Canada Day it is. Canada’s national celebration is always observed on July 1..unless that date falls on a Sunday. In which case it is observed the following day…in truth the two holidays coming back to back like they do gives cause for weeks long celebrations..so it doesn’t really matter what day it falls on. People are taking more days off now than any other time during the summer. Unlike the July 4th celebrations of our neighbours to the south in the United States or our homegrown Quebecois Saint Jean Baptiste day..where partying is the name of the game..Canada Day seems to be celebrated in a more reserved manner…or so I have always thought. Still there are a few of us acorss this great country of ours who still know how to close and open a bar or two.
Coinciding with next week-ends festivities is our very own and very excellent..if I may say so myself International Jazz Festival…it’s always a guaranteed pleaser and swinging good time is usually had by all. The streets of downtown are virutally filled to their brims with seas of people..every conceivable nationality is represented and most are jazz lovers extrodinaire and those who happen to straggle in for the ‘experience’ of it..will be soon enough. Blues royalty, the 80 year old B.B King in the company of Garrett & Dutch Mason will privilage our ears this summer. And maybe..if I’m very..very lucky he’ll do Lucille..whatever tunes the great pooh-bah King chooses to do..his marvelous sexy..whiskey tenor of a voice is sure to make old & new fans alike speak volumes about seeing him live for some time to come. Martha Wainwright’s ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ could make this gal cry into her drink if done at the right time..and the Neville Brothers ‘Yellow Moon,’ well it may just get me up on my sandaled feet. I’m hoping anyway..some of these songs will be played. These are just a few of the names whose voices will fill our fine cities hot summer streets this Jazzz fest. Wish you were here!
Happy Fête Nationale dear Quebec!
Later mes amis