May 24th was the date that Queen Victoria of England was born. On her thirty-fifth birthday, in 1854, legislation was passed to celebrate her birthday in Canada. That year, over 5,000 gathered on May 24th in Toronto to "give cheers to their queen". It wasn't until after the death of Queen Victoria, who was deemed to be the "Mother of Confederation" that a law was made to remember and honour her every year on May 24th.
In Canada we celebrate Victoria Day on the Monday preceding May 25th regardless of the actual date. This a federal statutory holiday but the provinces each determine if employees will receive the day off with pay. Some people call it "May long" "May two-four" or "May run". Quebec dubs the holiday as National Patriotes Day" (Journée nationale des patriotes).
Many call the long weekend in May "The Queen's birthday" and Queen Elizabeth II does celebrate on that weekend even though her birthday is actually on April 21st.
How will you celebrate on Victoria Day if you have a "day off"? Will it be:
1. Observing a change of seasons - The third weekend in May is often viewed as a transition time when we move from winter into summer. Birds are singing and nature is blossoming.
2. Gardening - Greenhouses and patios and gardens often get lots of attention as the weather is warm enough for planting.
3. Opening the cabin - Perhaps you will reverse the winterizing that was done last fall and begin enjoying the first part of what is often called "the cottage season".
4. Celebrating - Many cities across Canada plan events that include parades, athletic competitions, gunpowder salutes and fireworks.
5. Preparing your summer wardrobe - Lighter-coloured summer clothing is usually worn from Victoria Day to Labour Day. Will you be organizing your closet on Victoria Day?
6. Changing sports - Your skiing will likely be replaced now with golfing, fishing or boating.
7. Enjoying a picnic - Parks are open and opportunities are available to throw a Frisbee, exercise your pet and eat your lunch in the warm sunshine.
8. Having a party - Teens and young adults often use "May long" as a time for camping and celebrating together.
9. Choosing relaxation - Take a nap. Read a book. Listen to music. Do something that brings you pleasure.
10. Connecting with others - Visit family. Call a friend. Write a letter. Plan an outing.
It has been a long time since Queen Victoria was born but, as Canadians we continue to observe the patriotic holiday that was named in her honour. Many of you will be scheduled to work or, depending on where you live, might not have a paid day off from work.
No matter what your situation, however, Victoria Day is a time when you will notice that people all around are making changes to their lives and environments. What will you do on this historic holiday?
Have a wonderful long weekend and a very Happy Victoria Day!