Question: "What is St. Jean-Baptiste Day, and should Christians celebrate it?"

Answer: St. Jean-Baptiste Day, observed annually on June 24 primarily in French-Canadian culture, is a Roman Catholic feast day that celebrates John the Baptist, the prophetic forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 1:76). In the fourth century, the Catholic Church selected the summertime date for commemorating John because it’s six months before Christmas, aligning with the Bible’s teaching that John is a half-year older than Jesus (Luke 1:26). Despite John’s being an important figure in the Gospels, Christians would be ill-advised to celebrate the religious aspects of St. Jean-Baptiste Day because the theology that underlies it contradicts biblical teaching.

John the Baptist is considered the patron saint of French Canadians, and St. Jean-Baptiste Day, or Fête Nationale du Québec, has become the official holiday of Quebec. The celebration usually commences the night before St. Jean-Baptiste Day with bonfires, dancing, and traditional folk songs. The morning brings parades and a Roman Catholic mass. Many celebrants wear blue or white clothing and wave the Quebec flag.

Ironically, the act of elevating John through the observance of St. Jean-Baptiste Day violates his own teaching. As evidenced in John 3:30, where the prophet emphatically stated that Jesus “must increase, but I must decrease” (ESV), a religious feast day in his honor ignores John’s desire, disregards his humility, and diminishes the glory that he desired Jesus to receive.

Showing such reverence for John not only deviates from his own teaching but also from broader theological themes in Christianity. Three Catholic doctrines that are foundational to such practices—the Holiness of the Saints, the Communion of the Saints, and the Treasury of the Saints—don’t have a biblical foundation.

First, the doctrine of the Holiness of the Saints reflects the Catholic Church’s teaching that saints, having been made holy through God’s grace and their individual good works, merit celebration through feast days. It also declares that people can pray to them for help in life. However, the Bible teaches that salvation and holiness are imparted through God’s grace exclusively through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Therefore, Christians should worship and pray to Jesus alone, not to His followers (1 Timothy 2:5–6; Hebrews 7:25).

Second, the doctrine of the Communion of the Saints describes the Catholic Church’s view that all believers—alive, dead, and those in purgatory—are united and support one another through prayers and good deeds. This belief is rooted in the conviction that the entire community of believers throughout history form one large family. In contrast, the Bible emphasizes the importance of a direct relationship between the individual believer and God, making the need for saintly intercession and mediation unnecessary (Hebrews 4:16; Romans 8:26–27).

Third, the doctrine of the Treasury of the Saints is the Catholic Church’s conviction that there is a spiritual depository stocked with the good deeds of Jesus and the saints. The Catholic Church dispenses these credits as indulgences, which believers can acquire through prayer, penance, or charity. However, the Bible is clear that salvation is an unearned gift from God, based on the imputed righteousness of Jesus, not the transferred merit of the saints (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 4:4–6; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Given these theological concerns, it’s important to clarify that not everyone who celebrates St. Jean-Baptiste Day embraces the Catholic theology that underlies it. In Quebec, the day has grown to represent French-Canadian identity. It was named the province’s national holiday in 1925. Many people observe the day for traditional and cultural reasons, seeking a sense of community and to enjoy the historical aspects and festivities.

However, it’s important for Christians to consider the theological implications of their participation. While engaging in cultural and community events is valuable, the Bible cautions against practices that have the appearance of spiritual meaning but lack biblical foundation, as they are ultimately fruitless and unprofitable (1 Corinthians 10:20–22; Revelation 2:14, 20).

Christians would benefit from studying John the Baptist’s life and ministry as the Bible reveals it, seeking theological understanding and application for life today. There is great benefit to learning the lessons that John’s story teaches—like humility, service, and devotion to Jesus—rather than going through the motions of a tradition that is Christian in name but empty of substance.