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Why do we celebrate Victoria Day?


Photo by Duncan Rawlinson licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

For some, Victoria Day is a sign that summer is just around the corner. The holiday, which is only celebrated in Canada and Scotland, began as a celebration to honour Queen Victoria’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Queen Victoria!

The British queen was born on May 24, 1819. She was a reigning monarch (Queen) for 63 years, seven months and two days.

Victoria Day was declared a Canadian holiday by the government in 1845.

At that time, it was celebrated with picnics, parades, sporting tournaments, fireworks and cannon salutes.

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Canada’s parliament officially named the holiday Victoria Day.

It was decided that the day would be celebrated on the penultimate (second last) Monday in May. In 2020, that's May 18th.

Holidays are better on Mondays

Victoria Day celebrations in Toronto

Photo by Lone Primate licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In 1952, the government made the decision to begin celebrating Victoria Day on a Monday. It would be observed on May 24th if that worked out, otherwise, it would be held on the Monday immediately before it.

Today, Victoria Day is a holiday throughout most of Canada and the day was marked more recently in most cities with parades, outdoor events and activities like camping and elaborate firework displays. Today, it might be marked in different ways that allow people to keep a safe distance such as virtually online, on television or as a family in the back yard.

Quebec has its own holiday

In Quebec, a statutory holiday called Journée nationale des patriotes is celebrated on the Monday right before May 25th.

It replaced a holiday called Fête de Dollard in 2003, which had replaced Victoria day in 1918.