Happy Victoria Day, eh?

Happy Victoria Day, eh?

The Mother of Canadian Confederation

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.

Victoria Day barbecue

Beer and BBQ — Victoria Day heaven!

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.

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About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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8 Responses to Happy Victoria Day, eh?

  1. Judy says:

    You forgot to mention the other proud Canadian tradition for the Victoria Day weekend (at least in Ontario) which is planting your garden, as the weather lurches directly from winter to summer in a mere week. ;-)

    • Maria says:

      “Planting” my “garden” consists of buying pots of geraniums to put on the patio. I learned long ago that my husband and I don’t have a single green thumb between us. We can’t keep anything alive — how my children have managed to survive all these years is a mystery. But you’re right, this is the weekend Ontarians plant their gardens and desperately hope there won’t be any freak frosts to ruin their handiwork.

      Hope you’re enjoying your May 24 weekend, Judy. It’s turning out to be nicer than the weather forecast led us to believe!

  2. That sounds like such fun! Similar to US Memorial Day, not in rationale, but in how you celebrate – barbecues and beer! We just had Koninginnedag in late April, but because it had Dutch food/drink/activities, I never equated it with our Memorial Day kicking off the summer. Looks like I need to add Victoria Day to my calendar, eh?

  3. Nancy Kostyrka says:

    As a proud Victorian (i.e., from Victoria, B.C.) let me say we really do Victoria Day up big here. I just returned from the 4-hour long parade (oldest in Canada) and we here do think the holiday is in honour of the most beautiful city in Canada as well as the monarch we were named after. So happy Victoria Day — we’ll be celebrating with tea and crumpets now (and beer and burgers later).

    • Maria says:

      I’d no idea about the parade! I’ve always heard so much about the beauty of Victoria, though — and how “British” it is. I spent six weeks at Royal Roads University for my MA, but never once made it off campus. (Still kicking myself about that, and yes, I have plans to right that wrong one day.) Thanks so much for the comment. I hope your Victoria Day weekend was jolly good!

  4. Great post. This Canadian is proud of her monarch ties and has never forgotten them as Im reminded daily when I look at my British born mother.

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