In Canada, Queen Victoria’s Birthday is a statutory holiday observed in many provinces across Canada every year on the Monday before May 25th. That means this year we celebrate on Monday, May 23rd.
Many Canadians do not realize that Victoria Day on May 24th is NOT observed internationally. The holiday, which is only celebrated in Canada and Scotland, began as a celebration to honour the Queen’s birthday.
Most workplaces in Canada are regulated by the provincial or territorial government. Therefore, although Victoria Day is a statutory holiday for federal purposes, whether an employee is entitled to a paid day off generally depends on the province or territory of residence (with the exception of employees in federally regulated workplaces such as banks). Traditionally government liquor stores, schools, and other public sector offices are all closed for the day.
The United States also has a May long weekend. Since they don’t have a queen, their celebration isn’t the least bit royal. The American Memorial Day holiday is always a week behind our holiday weekend.
Victoria and Her Day
Queen Victoria was (past tense) was the longest reigning monarch (Queen) in England. She was on the throne for 63 years, 216 days. On September 9th, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II exceeded her and today holds the title of the longest reigning monarch in British history.
The Canadian Federal government protocol dictates that our original flag, the Royal Union Jack , be flown from sunrise to sunset on a second flag pole at all federal government buildings. This includes airports, military bases and other Crown-owned property across the country. Additionally (where physical arrangements allow) a Royal 21-gun salute will be fired in each of our provincial capitals and in the national capital at noon that day.
Celebrations Across the Country
Victoria Day was declared a Canadian holiday by the government in 1845. At that time, it was celebrated with picnics, parades, sporting tournaments, fireworks, and cannon salutes. The day is recognized in Alberta, BC, Manitoba, NWT, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. Unfortunately, it is a non-statutory “general” holiday in the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland.
In Quebec the National Patriots’ Day is commemorated on this day and in Newfoundland celebrates Commonwealth Day the same weekend and it kicks off the start to their gravel pit parties & camping weekend.
Victoria, BC is the Canadian namesake city of her royal highness and likely holds the grandest party of all. Led by the Canadian Forces, more than 120,000 spectators will be watching Victoria’s British roots be displayed with a parade featuring Canadian and American marching bands, musical floats, cultural entries and festive clowns.
What to do for Victoria’s Birthday?
Most people across the country consider that Victoria Day marks the end of the long winter and the unofficial start of the spring/summer season. For some, Victoria Day is a sign that summer is just around the corner. Families who aren’t out planting their flower and vegetable gardens may be found helping open summer businesses, Provincial Parks, outdoor restaurants, riding rented bicycles or exploring outdoor farmers and night markets.
In Vancouver, we will see lifeguards begin their role of supervising local beaches. Simultaneously, this long weekend signifies the end of the ski season at resorts such as Banff’s Sunshine Village and in Whistler, BC.
Did You Know?
- Queen Victoria was barely five feet tall, had a very outspoken nature and imposing reputation.
- The Queen was the first known carrier of hemophilia, an affliction that would become known as the “Royal disease”.
- Victoria was raised by a single mother and later became a single mother herself.
- Victoria’s mother spoke German at home and even though Victoria ruled England for 64 years, she never learned to speak perfect English.
- As a child holly was put under Victoria’s collar to irritate and train her to keep her chin up.
- Queen Victoria was the last teenager to rule England.
- Victoria first met her future husband (and cousin), Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, when she was 16. When she was 20, she proposed to him, not vice versa. They produced nine children.
- There were at least six serious assassination attempts made against Victoria during her reign — most of which while she was riding in her carriage.
- The earliest postage stamps in the world (first used on May 6, 1840) were the Penny Black of the United Kingdom and had the head of Queen Victoria on them.
- During her lifetime, she published her Letters, Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands and More Leaves.
- An era was named after the Queen – The Victorian Era – a time of economic and imperial expansion.
Queen Victoria shaped a new role for the Royal Family, reconnecting it with the public through civic duties.