Here are seven things you perhaps didn’t know about our Victoria Day celebrations.
- It’s All About the Old Queen
Victoria Day is a Canadian federal public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25 in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. This year, since May 25 is a Monday, our holiday falls on May 18.
- We’ve Been Celebrating for a Looooong Time
The holiday has been observed in Canada since at least 1845 – Queen Victoria’s 35th birthday. She reigned for a total of 63 years, longer than any of her predecessors, until her death in 1901 at the age of 81.
- We’re Unique
Canada is the only country that honours Queen Victoria with an official holiday.
- Celebrations Used to be Very Different
An example of a typical 19th Century celebration of the Queen’s birthday took place on May 24, 1866 in Omemee, in Kawartha Lakes. The town mounted a day-long party to mark the occasion, including a gun salute at midnight, pre-dawn serenades, picnics, athletic competitions, a display of illuminations and a torch-light procession.
- It Wasn’t Always a Joyous Occasion
At least twice in history the holiday was marred by tragedy. In 1881, the passenger ferry Victoria set sail along the Thames River, near London, ON and overturned with 600 to 800 people on board. Approximately 182 people drowned, including children who had been with their families for Victoria Day picnics at Springbank Park. On May 26, 1896, in Victoria, BC the Point Ellice Bridge collapsed under the weight of a streetcar overloaded with passengers on their way to attend Victoria Day celebrations causing 55 fatalities.
- Bring On the Parades and Fireworks
To mark the occasion in modern day, royal gun salutes are fired in each provincial capital and in the national capital at noon on Victoria Day. Some cities hold parades – the largest being in the monarch’s namesake city of Victoria, BC, where it’s taken place every year since 1898. Many municipalities and individuals hold their own fireworks display, most notably in Toronto at Ashbridge’s Bay Beach and Ontario Place.
- Don’t Forget the Suds
Victoria Day is colloquially known in Canada as May Two-Four, a double entendre that refers both to the date around which the holiday falls and Canadian slang for a case of 24 beers.
Happy Victoria Day, from all of us to you!
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