By Alexander Bassano – Scanned from the book The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson, ISBN 1855142287, p. 153., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6640482
The Victoria Day weekend signals the unofficial beginning of summer in Canada.
Yes, we are well aware that the season doesn’t officially start for another month but for we northerners, when the weather becomes warm enough to haul out the barbecue or mow the lawn, we’re all in.
This is the weekend that Canadians traditionally flock to beaches to bask in “blistering” twenty-degree celsius temperatures, (that’s around seventy degrees Fahrenheit for our American readers), go camping, or open the cottage for the first weekend of what promises to be another long and glorious season of easy living.
Victoria Day, named in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday, is held on the last Monday in May prior to the 25th of the month. It has been a national holiday in Canada since 1901 and is now used as the day to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s birthday as well.
For many Canadians, it is one of the great perquisites of having a connection to the crown, arriving as it does just as temperatures begin to rise, taking spirits along for the lofty ride.
Victoria Day is a Canadian celebration and it is not held in most of England. Parts of Scotland do honour the day, especially in the Edinburgh area where it remains a holiday.
Despite being a national holiday in Canada since 1901 it has been an unofficial celebration since the 1840’s. Originally held on May 24th (the actual date of Queen Victoria’s birthday), the law was amended in 1952 when the government changed it to, the Monday preceding the 25th of May.
Thus the beginning of a weekend celebration. The holiday is still referred to by many as the May two-four weekend for reasons that have little to do with the date!
Queen Victoria was the first “Queen of Canada”, occupying the throne when our country came into existence in 1867, little wonder she is so celebrated and entrenched in Canadian tradition.
So this Victoria Day weekend, whether you’re at the cottage, beach, or just hanging out in the backyard having that long-awaited first barbecue of the year, take a moment, raise a glass and utter that storied and time-honoured toast.
“Ladies and gentlemen, to the Queen!”
Canada’s reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II