When it comes to cultural celebrations, National Acadian Day holds a special place in the hearts of Acadians in Canada. This unique holiday, known as Fête nationale de l’Acadie in French, is an annual celebration on August 15th that encapsulates the rich history, identity, and vibrant culture of the Acadian people.
A Historic Decision
The inception of National Acadian Day goes back to the first National Convention of the Acadians, held at Memramcook, New Brunswick, in 1881. It was then that the Acadian leaders received the mandate to establish a day to celebrate their culture, coinciding with the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.
However, the choice of date was a contentious topic. Some argued for June 24th, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, already marked as a national day for French Canadians. This argument was predicated on the need for Acadians to unite with the broader francophone Canadian population. Conversely, others contended that Acadians, as a distinct ethnic group, should adopt their own national day and proposed August 15th.
A Unique Celebration
The August 15th proponents successfully argued that this day would not hinder unity between French Canadians and Acadians. They stated that both June 24th and August 15th pose challenges in terms of agricultural commitments, making neither day more convenient. Furthermore, they emphasized the religious significance of August 15th—Assumption Day, a Catholic celebration of Virgin Mary, who is also the patron saint of Acadians.
A notable figure during these debates was Abbot Marcel-François Richard. He passionately stressed the importance of Acadians preserving their unique identity, separate from that of Canada, given their French origin. Richard believed that by adopting a holiday that echoes their French roots—specifically, the Assumption—they could affirm their distinct existence.
After these spirited debates, the convention attendees chose August 15th, marking a significant milestone in Acadian history.
Vatican and Canadian Recognition
Years later, the Vatican endorsed the Acadian convention’s decision with a proclamation issued on January 19, 1938. Finally, National Acadian Day was acknowledged as an official Canadian holiday on June 19, 2003, by the Parliament of Canada.
Today, this day is endearingly dubbed by Acadians in Chiac as “Quinze zou des fous” (Quinze-Août des Fous) or simply “Quinze zou,” bringing together Acadians to rejoice in their shared heritage.
Preserving the Acadian Legacy
The National Acadian Day is more than just a day on the calendar; it’s a powerful symbol of the Acadians’ endurance, resilience, and distinctive culture. Despite historical adversities, Acadians have held fast to their traditions, language, and autonomy. The National Acadian Day is a testament to the strength and unity of the Acadian community, a vibrant reminder of their unique identity, and a profound celebration of their origin.
So, come August 15th, let us all join in celebrating the rich Acadian culture and history that brings life, colour, and a unique sense of belonging to the Acadian community. After all, National Acadian Day isn’t just a day of celebration; it’s a day of recognition, remembrance, and respect for the heritage that has shaped a nation.