Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Victoria Day!!

Today is Victoria Day. When I was a kid, Victoria Day (officially the Monday before May 25th) was the start of summer and signalled that school would soon be out. (And that my birthday was coming!) It meant fireworks and hot dogs, a long weekend, nice weather, tulips and freshly mowed lawns.

But we all knew what it meant, too. It was a celebration in honour (using the Canadian spelling today!) of Queen Victoria's birthday.

Today, though we still call it Victoria Day, it is as often called May Two Four, as if it is a case of beer. (It is supposed to be officially held on May 24th, but that never happens!) Canadians are very fond of beer, so a long weekend to celebrate it... it's a natural fit.

But there has always been some agitation to change the idea of the day to something more reflective of our growing multi-culturalism. Many Canadians feel that we should not be celebrating something so very English as the birthday of a long-dead English monarch, given that we are a country that welcomes and celebrates so many cultures, from the First Nations that are the bedrock of our country, through the French and English settlers, past the Irish and Scots heritage that can still be heard in the 'Down East' dialect and accent, the German and Polish roots of much of Ontario, the Ukranian and Scandinavian pioneers that moved steadily west and to our modern day Somali, Vietnamese, Korean, Sudanese, Latin American and Caribbean blends of cultures.

But to me, that is exactly what Canada Day (July 1st) is all about. That is the true celebration of our rich multi-cultural country. So why change the name of Victoria Day?

As Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun says in his May 16th post about the agitation to change the name to something more reflective of our diversity, "And what happens 100 years from now? Change it again to something more chic? Why stop at Victoria Day? Why not change the name of the city, Victoria, B.C., too, since there are people who live there who aren't of British ancestry?" and he goes on to add, "And who gets to decide what is suitable or offensive? Sure changing everything to please certain people is an option but the other option is for us to accept our rich history, which includes our growth and diversity thanks to the generosity of people like Queen Victoria."

I don't know if I would go so far as to say Queen Vickie was 'generous', but I do agree that if we change it, we may as well not name the holdiay at all, because the name would have to change every few years to reflect the changes in our culture. I think it's likely only those of us with British forebears who are even worried about the 'Englishness' of the name. To paraphrase the bard, "For what's in a name? By any other name it would still be a day off work!"

I do apologize for taking up this space today with a subject of such pure Canadian interest, (I reveal my Canadianism by apologizing; we are said to be a very polite people - LOL) but I'd now like to turn it over to you. Memorial Day is coming up next weekend, and I just realized I don't really know what it is about. Is it a veteran's holiday in memory of fallen heroes? I watch the Indy 500 race on the Sunday of Memorial weekend every year, and it seems to me that there is a lot of militaria involved, so am I on the right track? I know, I could Google it and know in 3.5 seconds, but I'm more interested in what it means to Americans. Is it your official start to summer, or something more?


  1. Happy Victoria Day. Looking forward to Memorial Day--an extra day off during my month of madness at work!

  2. Yes, Memorial Day is about honoring fallen military heroes, Donna, but just why the Indy 500 is run on that day has always been a mystery. Maybe it was just a good day for a race--but since it rains about half the time, I question the logic of it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your Victoria Day celebration!

  3. Cheryl confirmed the holiday, but it is the unofficial start to the summer season, which ends on Labor Day weekend. My kids want school to be over on Memorial Day b/c, after all "it's summer." Um, no, it's not. June 21 is. Live with it and be happy you're out of school before then! :)

  4. Hey, Cheryl,

    Well, at least it's on the Sunday of the holiday weekend! It is the same day as the Nascar Coco-Cola 600, making it the longest day of the racing year! Some drivers have actually competed in both, taking a helicopter from Indianapolis to Charlotte. Now that's dedication!

    (Any other race fans out there??)

  5. Happy Victoria Day! My mother's family were the Scots/Irish/German settlers up there, although we had a Frenchmen in the family tree also. :)

    As to Memorial Day, it was first started for the Union soldiers during the Civil War, but continued for the fallen soldiers and casualties in WWI and afterward. My father, 16 years old at the time, had been a POW in WWII for 16 months, his uncle died as a POW of the Japanese, and my mother's uncle had been a prisoner of the Japanese, but survived. I'm retired from the Army, and in fact was just honored by being asked to commission an AFROTC student as a 2LT in the AF on Friday and will commission my own son in a couple of months. :) So for me, Memorial Day is a special time to say thanks to those who have fought our battles and continue to fight them. :)

  6. Hey, Terry,

    My Dad was a Lance corporal in the Canadian army in WWII and served in Holland and Germany. He's been gone for 13 years now, but I think of him all the time, and especially on November 11th, Remembrance Day.

  7. Thanks for sharing Donna! I always see the Canadian Holidays on my calendar and often wonder about them... Everyone else did a great job explaining Memorial Day, so I'll just share that we alwasy mark it with a big cookout. I think this year it will be a little smaller than usual, but my parents' house will be full of friends and food on Monday!

  8. I'm still trying to catch up on the American holidays, as opposed to the English ones. But a day off - or in my case a day with the guys at home - is always welcome, whatever the celebration.

  9. When I was in school, it let out the middle of June, so I think I still see that time as the start of summer.

    High school seemed like summer a lot and you knew good weather by how many surfboards were on the cars in the school parking lot.


  10. Any other race fans?!?!?!

    AHEM!!! Donna, you are talking to the woman who has been to both the Indy 500 AND the Daytona 500! Yes, the one time we attended the Indy, it was delayed 4 hours due to rain. We also saw the "Little 500" the night before, which are sprint cars that run on dirt/mud. Yes, it was rain delayed too, but a LOT more fun to watch.

    My DH is a huge auto racing fan and has been since he was a little boy. Basically, if it has 4 tires and a motor and goes in a circle, he will watch it! Doesn't even have to go in a circle, as we've seen some road course racing too! ;-)

  11. I totally agree with Mr. Warmington. Holidays that honor the past should be kept as is. Time marches on and ideas change, but that has nothing to do with historical truth. I won't get on a soap box either, but suffice to say that that sort of attitude annoys the heck out of me!

    Happy Victoria Day, Donna! Be proud to be Canadian, I say! And Happy Memorial Day to us Americans!

  12. Wow, Donna, that's so neat. :) My grandfather was an MD in WWI in the Royal Canadian Army, but did enlistment physicals, then took care of returning wounded soldiers. :) I also had a MacNeill in the Blackwatch in Canada, but could never locate more about him. And one of our relatives was a Colonel (Playfair), given land in Canada for developing a better rifle for the English king. Plus we had a German mercenary who ended up being in the Canadian forces. :) Lots of military history!