Happy Victoria Day!
Do you know why we celebrate “Victoria Day” or the “May 24 long weekend” here in Canada? If not, then find comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
Tonight at dinner our kids asked us why we celebrate Victoria Day.
I took a shot and replied, “We celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday.”
My wife looked over at me with that look on her face trying to determine if I was correct or feeding the kids a line of B.S.
I nodded that this was correct, and I continued to fill my kids brains full of fun facts about Victoria Day, Canada’s oldest state holiday dating back to 1845, in which Canadians celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday.
“Why Queen Victoria and not Queen Elizabeth?” who is our current Queen, was the next question.
Well, Queen Victoria was Canada’s sovereign at the time of Confederation all the way back in 1867. In fact, the Fathers of Confederation would not have been able to create this new country without her royal assent.
Fairly significant, one would agree.
Queen Victoria is also credited with selecting Ottawa to be Canada’s capital, based on its location on the border of English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Canada and being far from the US border better protected in case the US attacked.
Queen Victoria died in 1901 and the Federal government make Victoria Day a National holiday to be observed on May 24th each year (unless the 24th was a Sunday, then the holiday would be observed on a Monday). In fact, in 1952, the parliament changed the holiday to be the Monday before May 24th which is why in some years it is very early (like this year).
“So why do we not celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s birthday?”
Well, we do! Since 1953, Victoria Day has been recognized as the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II in Canada. (In England, it’s celebrated in June, even though she was actually born in April.) Scotland also celebrates Victoria Day on the Monday before May 24th as well.
I also explained that Victoria Day also represents the day to begin planting vegetables and into the garden as the last frost occurs in early May. It’s also the time of year that people head out to open cottages, and enjoy the outdoors.
Victoria Day has come to represent the start of summer, the opening of the garden and eating dinners outdoors. How fireworks tie into this is a whole other story!
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