No Barriers to History with the Fêtes de Nouvelle France

No Barriers to History with the Fêtes de Nouvelle France

Article and photos by Farnell Morisset

A pessimist would say it rained, but an optimist would realise the water merely cooled off the road before this year’s Fêtes de Nouvelle France began with its now-traditional Défilé des géants, a humble but enthusiastic parade of dance, flintlocks, bands, stiltwalkers, and the iconic 5-meter-tall statues.

The streets from Grande Allée to the Château Frontenac lined with tourists and locals from 7:00pm onwards on Wednesday.  Minimal uniformed police, no fences or barricades, and the good humour of almost everyone present promised that the parade would boast its usual informal appeal and emphasis on blurring the division between spectator and participant.  The rain having stopped just in time for the beginning of the parade also made for cool weather and a beautiful sunset sky.

The usual companies of flintlock-wielding re-enactors of mid-18th century French soldiers, native dancers and musicians adorned in feathers and buckskin, and common citizens dressed in outrageously lavish pre-Conquest noble’s dresses and attire were on the menu, while the Géants ambled down the road representing various historical personalities as well as personifications of French regime social concepts.

Dame Cap-Diamant, holding the city on a platter, was a particularly creative interpretation of the geography of Québec City.

It would be unfair not to mention that the Fêtes de Nouvelle France is not the spectacle it once was, and the opening parade is no exception.  While the parade once featured acts and floats that rivalled the Carnaval, the parade has gotten much more modest and homely since then.  In a sense, this might be a loss, but then again parents wouldn’t let their children march right into the middle of the parade to interact with the costumed animators during the Carnaval either.  While the Fêtes was also once much more strict on the historical accuracy of the Nouvelle-France, this rule also seems to have made way to a more lax – and frankly much more crowd-friendly celebration of the New France historical heritage rather than historical fact.  One of the most crowd-pleasing troupes in the parade were from Guadeloupe, led by a young gentleman sporting an oversized baseball cap and equally oversized pants surrounded by singing women dressed in dazzling mid-18th century Caribbean outfits.

The Fêtes de Nouvelle France continue throughout Vieux-Québec, particularly in the lower town, through the end of the weekend.  Volunteers and common people dressed as anything from 16th century petty crooks to 18th century lavish bourgeoisie abound the streets, manning stands and performing for the sheer enjoyment of history.

Be sure not to miss it.

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About the author:

Born and raised in Québec City, Farnell Morisset attended English school throughout his primary, secondary, and CEGEP studies, before ultimately choosing to stay in Québec City and study civil engineering at Laval University.

While at Laval, he served as president of the civil engineering student association. It was there that he discovered his affinity for writing and commentary, preparing a weekly column in the student newspaper dealing with the issues he, as president of the association, felt were important and relevant.

Farnell is passionate about discussing (amongst other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québecois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québecois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

He is also alarmed by what seems to be an invasive and aggressive polarization of complex social issues for which there are no black-and-white answers. This eventual identity crisis, he feels, will only be solved through good faith in, and honest communication with, all sides pulling on our ever dwindling “pure laine” blanket.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to LifeinQuebec.com as a valued member of our, in-house, writing team.

Categories: News

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image. He has an engineering degree from Université Laval and is currently a law student at McGill University.

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