Is May 24 a Holiday in Canada?

Esha Jain
Esha Jain Things to Know
8 Min Read
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May 24 in Canada is celebrated as none other than Victoria Day, also known as the ‘Queen’s Birthday’. It is generally celebrated on the Monday before May 25 every year, but the original date of the holiday is May 24. This article discusses Victoria Day’s historical background, significance, and how people in Canada celebrate it.

The Origins of Victoria Day

Queen Victoria holds court at Belfast City Hall with Athena Nike
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Victoria Day originated in Canada in the 19th Century when Queen Victoria reigned over Britain from 1837 to 1901. This era is also called the Victorian Age. Queen Victoria was born in London on May 24, 1819, at the Kensington Palace. Queen Elizabeth II’s reign was the second longest in British history, up to 63 years. At the time of her reign, Canada was ruled by Britain. In 1867, the Dominion of Canada became known as Canada, a free nation. The country was deeply influenced by the transformations she brought to British society.

The sovereign’s birthday started being celebrated in Canada before her reign in the 17th century. When she died on January 22 1901, in Osborne, May 25 was declared Empire Day by the Canadian Parliament. However, after 1952, the date was changed and now every first Monday before May 25 is observed officially as Victoria Day. This enabled the Canadians to enjoy a long 3-day weekend and also celebrate the start of the summer season.

Significance of Victoria Day

Canadian Flag
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This Day is not just a birthday celebration. It symbolizes the historical relationship between the Nations- Canada and Britain. This day helps one reminisce and appreciate Canadian ancestors who contributed to the country’s history. The day is also an unofficial mark of the beginning of spring and summer, symbolizing new growth and beginnings.

Is Victoria Day a Public Holiday?

The status of Victoria Day varies in different provinces and territories. Victoria Day is considered a public holiday in the Canadian provinces, namely Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, and in all three territories: Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. People in these areas enjoy a legal day off on this day. The schools, bDayretail stores, post offices, and most businesses are all closed. Some public transportation runs on a limited schedule, while others usually operate in these provinces and territories.

However, this day is not a paid pDayic holiday or a statutory holiday in the following three provinces,

  • Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code does not include Victoria Day as a paid holiday. It is also not a retail closing day in Nova Scotia. However, many employers give their staff a day off, and the schools also have a holiday.
  • Quebec does not celebrate Victoria Day as a statutory holiday but observes National Patriots’ Day instead.
  • Victoria Day is not on the list of paid public holidays in Newfoundland and Labrador. However, its Governor-in-Council can proclaim an additional holiday. Other different holidays can also be set by collective agreements in place of the public holidays designated under the province’s law.

Under the Days of Rest Act, Victoria Day is not a statutory paid holiday in New Brunswick but is listed as a prescribed Day of Rest. According to the provincial legislation, it is an ‘Optional’ Statutory holiday in Prince Edward Island.

How is Victoria Day Celebrated in Canada?

Before, Victoria Day was celebrated with picnics, different tournaments and sporting events. Nowadays, it is celebrated by Canadian people in unique ways. Some of them are as follows,

Fireworks Show on Victoria Day- May 24
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  • Huge parades are held across Canada to celebrate the day, including in cities such as Hamilton and Toronto. The City of ViDayria (named after the Queen) has one of the biggest parades in the nation.
  • Families host get-togethers and barbecue parties with their friends and neighbours. They also light fireworks, sparklers, and crackers in the evening. On Victoria Day, fireworks are only permitted on one’s private property until 11 p.m. Natural Resources Canada must authorize the fireworks to be manufactured, sold, bought, and used in Canada. It is important to note that fireworks and cracker regulations vary by location in Canada. While it is strictly prohibited in most cities, one can light fireworks in places like Toronto, Mississauga, Edmonton, and Metro Vancouver with a permit.
  • The Royal Union flag and the National flag are hoisted together at federal buildings in Canada, airports and military bases from dawn to evening.
  • As Victoria Day signifies the end of cold Winter and the beginning of summer, farmers sow new crops that can flourish well only in spring after this day. People open their recreational homes. Many parks and public places are also open for the summer season.
  • Many people in Canada participate in Community activities and volunteer at various social events such as parades, campfires, festivities and cultural programmes.
  • The public festivities are broadcast across networks, so people staying indoors can experience them. Those at home also decorate their houses with British and Canadian flags to honour the two nations.
  • People also watch films like Victoria the Great or The Young Victoria to learn about Queen Victoria’s life and reign.

Other Names of the Holiday

1. May Two-Four Weekend

The Canadians popularly call Victoria Day May Two-Four weekend. The term “Two-Four” is a pun that denotes both the date of Queen Victoria’s birthday and slang in Canada for a case of 24 beers, a popular drink Canadians enjoy on the long weekend. This is also the mark of the cottage season, and people drink a lot over the weekend to celebrate.

2. National Patriots Day

 National Patriots' Day in Quebec
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Quebec has a different Victoria Day holiday called National Patriots’ Day or Journée nationale des Patriotes. In 1918, Victoria Day in Quebec was replaced by Fête de Dollard. This holiday was further replaced by National Patriots’ Day in 2003. It is observed to commemorate the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837.

3. May Long or May Long Weekend

With the change of the initial date, Canadians now enjoy a long weekend in May. People often plan trips and outdoor picnics during these three days. That is why it got its name “May Long Weekend”.

Hence, we can conclude that Victoria Day is a historical remembrance and celebration of harmony in Canada. From cannon salutes in old times to a fun three-day trip with family, we can find all kinds of celebrations of this day. So, whether it is May 24 or another date in the upcoming years, it is a holiday observed formally/informally all over Canada.

Last Updated on by AnoushkaRoy

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