Joyeux St. Jean de Baptiste, mes amis!
The St. Jean de Baptiste celebrations have been going on in Quebec for over 400 years. It’s a celebration of French culture, but it may have actually happened because some prominent leaders in Quebec at the time attended a St. Patrick’s Day celebration and said, ‘We should totally have a celebration of our own like this!’
Arguably the most prominent francophone fete in Canada, and they got the idea from another culture. They didn’t get all spun out about cultural appropriation. They just looked to another culture and thought they could model their own celebration after someone else’s celebration.
Don’t get me wrong. Cultural appropriation is a thing. Taking the worst stereotypes of a group, and blowing them up into a caricature – not OK (lookin’ at you, Chief Wahoo). Taking something sacred and being either sacrilegious or flippant about them – not OK (A rosary is not a necklace. It’s also not a fuzzy-dice alternative for your car). Taking something that is a significant artifact, and making it a joke or reducing it to something trivial – not OK.
But it is OK to look around you at the global community and saying that maybe the tenets of Holi (making amends to broken relationships), or Yom Kippur (seeking forgiveness for transgressions) are being respectful. And maybe looking at Yule or Litha for opportunities to ponder balance in your life. It’s not OK for European-descended kids to wear full American Indian headresses to music festivals in the desert. But maybe it is OK for me to have a Buddha statue in my garden, along with St. Francis.
When I was 6 or 7, my RC family was invited to an evening of Hanukkah at a family friend’s house. I learned how to spin the dreidel and I got a copy of Little Women. Years later, an aunt who was Jewish was lamenting that she didn’t have a synagogue near her home in northeastern Ontario. I decided to host a Hanukkah night for her. My champagne flutes, turned upside down, served as the menorah, and a taller wine glass, also upended, performed duties of the shamash. It certainly wasn’t a kosher meal (but the dishes were traditional-ish), but I made a heartsick woman happy for a night, and that was a good thing.
I have a friend who bought a beautiful silk kimono wrap, and was nervous about wearing it lest she, a white woman, be disrespectful. In my mind, the fact that she was even thinking about this meant that she was being absolutely respectful. And that’s the spirit in which I do reflections on Lent and Easter, but also Beltaine, 420, May Day, the AllHallowtide tridium, Groundhog day, Cinco de Mayo, Feast of the saints (including Anthony, Lucy, and yes, John the Baptist)
May we all see opportunities to celebrate our own culture, but may we also be open to gathering fun, respectful ways to celebrate from the global neighbourhood