Victoria Day


In Canada, Victoria Day is a public holiday that falls on the last Monday before May 25th which marks both Queen Victoria’s birthday and the birthday of the current monarch.

Depending on where you hail from in the country, it’s sometimes referred to as the “May Long”, or the “May Two-Four” because of the late May date and, perhaps more importantly, the Canadian term for a case of 24 beers is a two-four. Do we have our priorities in order, or what?

On the same date, Québec celebrates National Patriots’ Day in remembrance of an uprising against British rule in 1837-1838. So, that’s a slightly different angle on the day, but does still arise out of the colonial relationship between Canada and the United Kingdom.

It’s the official start of summer in the Canadian consciousness - though in some parts, there’s no guarantee that all of the ice and snow has actually completely disappeared. Many people fire up the barbecue for its seasonal initiation, traditionally those with cottages make the journey to open them up after a long winter, and gardening begins in earnest.

Apparently, though not a national Bank Holiday, Victoria Day is also a local public holiday in some cities in Scotland. I’m still getting the hang of the whole Bank Holiday schedule in the UK, England specifically, and coming to terms with the long, dark, cold slog from Christmas and New Year’s through to Easter without a long weekend to look forward to... Otherwise, they’re all clumped into May and August, and that’s all you get aside from the Holidays in December and January.

I find it remarkable and a bit hilarious that Victoria Day commemorates one of Britain’s most notable and longest reigning monarchs, but that it’s just not an occasion here at all.

As a former British colony, Canada’s ties with the United Kingdom are ubiquitous and ever- present, from Queen Elizabeth II on the currency, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When I first came to this country, my illusions were shattered when I quickly realized that Britain didn’t look across the ocean at us as much as we turned in this direction. I was embarrassed that I had expected to be embraced by the “Motherland”, and given due recognition as a Canadian cousin. Alas, the Brits appear to have moved on!

Ah well, I can still raise a glass (of Pimms, please) to Queen Victoria on behalf of Canadians everywhere and, according to my calendar, that means summer is surely on its way!