Today Canadians across this great land unite in joy to celebrate the birthdays of England’s Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.
Well, sort of.
The last Monday on or before May 24th is a federal statutory holiday in Canada, and has been since 1845 — before Canada was even a nation. I’m betting most Canadians don’t give too much thought to the royalist aspects of the holiday. I wasn’t even aware of that part about Queen Elizabeth, for example, until I looked it up. And in Québec, where Canada’s association with Britain is a touchy subject, it’s known as Journée nationale des patriots (National Patriots’ Day).
Frankly, to most Canadians this holiday has a much greater significance: it marks the unofficial start of summer. [Cue fireworks and general merriment.]
You couldn’t really call this summer weather — I haven’t dug out the tank tops and flip-flops just yet. (I only packed my sweaters and boots away last week!) But for a nation that’s more or less bundled up against the cold from October to May, Victoria Day weekend is a welcome reminder that sunshine, heat, and stifling humidity are just around the corner.
That endearing desperation optimism is reflected in the sacred Victoria Day tradition of hauling the protective cover off the barbecue and firing that sucker up. Canadians loooove their barbecues.
Know what else we love? Beer. And although we certainly don’t need an excuse to drink it, the combination of a long weekend, the start of summer, and the first day of barbecue season adds up to a 20% increase in beer sales in the week leading up to Victoria Day. In fact, the holiday itself is commonly referred to as the May Two Four weekend. (Those of you who read my post on Canadian English will remember that a two-four is slang for a case of 24 beers.)
I’d love to stay and chat a little more about our quaint beer-swilling, meat-grilling, weather-deluding, monarchy-oblivious long weekend traditions. But my pasty white skin is aching to connect with the sun that’s trying valiantly to peek through the clouds, and there’s a two-four on the patio that’s calling my name. God save the Queen.