Who was Victoria and why do we celebrate her day?

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Many Canadians look forward to the May long weekend, commonly known as Victoria Day. This day is also called May Two-Four or May Long. It is observed on the Monday before May 24th each year. As the name of the holiday implies, it is celebrated to honour Queen Victoria who was born on May 24, 1819.

Who was Queen Victoria?

You owe this break to Queen Victoria who used to be the longest reigning British monarch in history. She ruled for 63 years and 216 days until her death in 1901. Queen Elizabeth II, the current queen, now holds this title. Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 at the age of 18.

Her reign was a period of great development in Great Britain’s industry, science and economy. Major railways, bridges and power distribution networks were established during her time. The empire also expanded its reach, doubling in size to encompass Canada, Australia, India and parts of Africa and the South Pacific. She became emblematic of the progress and philosophy of the period. This is why it became known as the Victorian era.

What is Victoria Day?

Victoria Day was declared a holiday in 1845 by the parliament of the Province of Canada but it wasn’t until 1901 (after the death of Queen Victoria) that it became a legal holiday. It used to be celebrated on May 24th every year or on the 25th if it is a Sunday. In 1952, the government decided to make it the Monday before May 24th.

Victoria Day is a holiday all throughout Canada except the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. In Quebec, they celebrate Journée nationale des patriotes (National Patriots’ Day) instead. It is interesting to note that England does not observe this holiday. It is celebrated only in Canada and Scotland.

How do Canadians celebrate Victoria Day?

It used to be a day for picnics, parades, sporting tournaments, fireworks and cannon salutes. Some parts of Canada have kept up part of this tradition, particularly in Victoria, British Columbia (which is named after Queen Victoria) where they still have grand parades. Meanwhile, people gather in parks to witness impressive fireworks displays in Hamilton and Toronto.

Since it is also the unofficial start of summer, many cottages and campsites expect to be full. Many travel to their cottages on the weekend or go camping with family and friends. Amusement parks and other outdoor attractions also open on this day. But with the ongoing pandemic, these activities are expected to change. Make sure to check the Province of Manitoba site for advisories to know if it’s safe to travel what public health measures to observe.

What’s open and closed on Victoria Day?

To make sure what’s open and closed on this holiday, check online. You can also check the City of Winnipeg’s webpage or contact 311 to confirm.
 
Article updated May 14,, 2020.
 
Sources: Queen Victoria, Biography.com; Victoria Day in Canada, timeandate.com; Why do we celebrate Victoria Day? CBC Kids. All accessed on May 9, 2017.

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