Bonne fête Québec!


qcflagIt used to be called la Fête de Saint Jean-Baptiste, back when the people of Québec were much more loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, John the Baptist being the province’s patron saint.

As a youngster, I’d guess six years old or less, I remember seeing a lot of nuns around (Salaberry-de-) Valleyfield, dressed in the blacks and whites of The Sound of Music convent. Although the large seminary building has been a junior college for a few decades there was, and still is, a beautiful cathedral, convent, and countless other parish churches around the city whose giant bells announcing mass were like time-keepers – as was the 3 pm whistle at Montreal Cottons for that matter. These were the early days of the so-called Quiet Revolution, a welcome relief to the oppressive regime of Premier Maurice Duplessis and just in time for the revolution of every other sort in the 1960s.

The holiday took on the more secular (and political) Fête nationale as the sovereignty movement began to flourish.

A year before the election of the province’s first nationalist government in 1976 Québec folksinger Gilles Vigneault performed at Fête nationale celebrations on Mont-Royal. He sang a song for the first time, a song that has since become known as the unofficial national anthem of Québec.

(English translation follows)
Gens du pays

Le temps qu’on a pris pour se dire : « Je t’aime »
C’est le seul qui reste au bout de nos jours
Les vœux que l’on fait, les fleurs que l’on sème
Chacun les récolte en soi-même
Aux beaux jardins du temps qui court

(refrain)
Gens du pays, c’est votre tour
De vous laisser parler d’amour
Gens du pays, c’est votre tour
De vous laisser parler d’amour

Le temps de s’aimer, le jour de le dire
Fond comme la neige aux doigts du printemps
Fêtons de nos joies, fêtons de nos rires
Ces yeux ou nos regards se mirent
C’est demain que j’avais vingt ans

refrain

Le ruisseau des jours aujourd’hui s’arrête
Et forme un étang ou chacun peut voir
Comme en un miroir, l’amour qu’il reflète
Pour ces cœurs à qui je souhaite
Le temps de vivre nos espoirs

refrain

(repeat until every last candle has burnt out) KC


English translation by Prem Srajano

People of my Country

The time that we take, saying “I love you”
Is all that remains at the end of our days
The vows that we make
The flowers that we sow
The harvest is within our heart
Through the splendid gardens of time’s changes.

People of my country, your turn has come
To let love speak to you
People of my country, your turn has come
To let love speak to you

The time to love each other, and the day we say it,
Melt like the snow caressed by the spring.
Celebrate our joys, celebrate our laughter
Our eyes meeting in embrace
Tomorrow I was only twenty.

People of my country, your turn has come
To let love speak to you
People of my country, your turn has come
To let love speak to you

The stream of our days today comes to a pause
And forms into a pool where everyone can see
As if it were a mirror, the love that it reflects,
For those hearts to whom I wish
The time to live out all our hopes.

People of my country, your turn has come
To let love speak to you

Ever conscious of my English-speaking minority status, trying to be understood (yes in defiance of St. Francis’ prayer), I believe that I have always been able to understand, to a great extent, the aspirations of the people of Québec.

So I love this song (and the tune can be quite hypnotic, depending on the setting).

I see that Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, like every small town and big city across the province, has the usual array of activities planned for the holiday, beginning today and ending late tomorrow – a parade (this will be where some holdouts from the Chevaliers de Colomb will march), musical entertainment at parc Sauvé and fireworks over Baie St-François downtown.

Bonne fête Québec!

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