For many Canadians, the Victoria Day celebrations mark the beginning of summer. When I am in Canada for the holiday, I spend the day the way many Canadians do, with picnics, grilling in the backyard, and other outdoor activities. After a long winter, the long weekend is a great opportunity to enjoy spending time outside with friends and family.
Victoria Day – 20th May 2019 – Canada
Victoria Day celebrates the reign of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
Born on 24th of May in 1819, Victoria became the reigning Queen on 20th of June, 1838. She was only 18 years of age. She ruled the British Empire until her death on 22 January, 1901, becoming one of Great Britain’s longest reigning monarchs. Queen Victoria was particularly popular in Canada. She granted Canada its independence as part of the Commonwealth in 1887. Queen Victoria remained the Queen of Canada after its independence.
Victoria Day is a federally recognized holiday in Canada. It was first celebrated in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday on 24 May 1845, 7 years after Queen Victoria took the throne. Originally, observed on her actual birthday except for those years when the 24th of May fell on a Sunday. When it landed on a Sunday, then it was celebrated on the Monday the 25th. In 1952, this was changed to the closest Monday before May 25th, creating the long holiday weekend that Canadians enjoy today.
Victoria Day symbolizes their historical ties with Great Britain, a relationship that is part of what makes them Canadian. In 1849, a group of Anglo-Montrealers signed the Annexation Manifesto. It declared that they wanted to become part of the United States. In response, Canadians who supported the continuing relationship with Great Britain made a political statement by turning Victoria Day into patriotic celebration.
In Quebec, where Queen Victoria was not popular, they celebrate the day with a Quebecois twist.
Instead of celebrating Victoria Day, in Quebec they celebrated the Fete de Dollard in honor of Adam Dollard des Ormeaux. Adam Dollard des Ormeaux was a French colonist. He was the garrison commander of the Fort at what is now Montreal. He died fighting the Iroquois in May of 1660, and is considered responsible for saving Montreal.
In 2003, Quebec named the Monday before the 25th Journée Nationale des Patriots, or National Patriots Day. This day honors Quebecois nationalists who fought for independence from Great Britain in the unsuccessful Lower Canada Rebellion (1837-1838). So, instead of celebrating their ties with Great Britain, as most of Canada does, Quebec celebrates their resistance to British imperialism.
Today, most of Canada celebrates Victoria Day with fireworks, parades, and outdoor activities.
In Ottawa and in the Provincial capitals, Candians celbrate Victoria Day with a 21 Gun salute. Government buildings, airports, and military bases fly the British Royal Union Flag alongside the Canadian Flag. (The Union Flag is also known as the Union Jack.)Many municipalities host parades and fireworks in celebration as well.
New Westminster has an interesting twist to their Victoria Day celebrations that dates back to 1859. Instead of the 21 gun salute, they celebrate by an annual anvil salute. The Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery of New Westminster performs this salute by placing gunpowder between two anvils and setting it off.
For Canadians, Victoria Day marks the beginning of the summer season. Many leave the cities to go camping or stay at summer cottages for the long holiday weekend. Picnics, barbecues, and bonfires are other popular activities, as are going to parks and zoos.
To all of our Canadian friends and family, we hope you had a joyous Victoria day this year and in the years to come,
and The Researcher’s Gateway team
Did you know?
Victoria Day isn’t the only holiday heavily influenced by Queen Victoria of England. Did you know that we can attribute the popularity of the Christmas Tree to her? Check it out in The Christmas Tree – Old Tannembaum.