Today is the day that I and my fellow Canadians celebrate Victoria Day. It is a day in which we, at least in theory, commemorate the birthday of Queen Victoria (and Queen Elizabeth II, though I suspect most people are not aware that she piggybacks in her birthday as well). Most Canadians, I’m quite sure, do not know or care what the day commemorates, though they are happy enough to enjoy a day away from work and school. I will attempt to remedy this shocking ignorance today. It gives me an opportunity to share another fact in my “It’s a Fact, Eh? archives.
It was in 1845 that Canada’s Legislature first declared May 24, Queen Victoria’s birthday, a holiday. After Victoria’s death in 1901, Parliament passed an Act that established a legal holiday on May 24 in each year (or May 25 if May 24 fell on a Sunday) under the name Victoria Day. Since then, the birthday of each of the subsequent kings and queens has been celebrated on or around that same day. A later amendment to the Act of Parliament established the celebration of Victoria Day on the Monday preceding May 25. And this is why we celebrated Victoria Day today, even though it is only the 19th. While the official name of the holiday is Victoria Day, many Canadians refer to it as “May Twenty-Four.” The queen’s birthday has largely been forgotten and instead the day tends to mark the unofficial beginning of the summer season.
The traditional way to celebrate the day (or more often the whole weekend) is to head to a cottage or campground and to drink oneself into oblivion—a fairly popular Canadian pastime. For this reason the holiday has become known colloquially as “May two four.” (A “two four” is a Canadian term for a case of beer that contains, of course, twenty four bottles). For many Canadians it is the weekend they open their cottages after spending a winter away. The long weekend concludes with fireworks displays as soon as it is dark enough to see them. Many people find themselves unwilling or unable to remain awake after dark on Monday night, so it’s not unusual to find firework displays throughout the weekend. Some towns host “official” displays while in others neighbors get together and fire off their own. Victoria Day is one of only two days where Canadians tend to use fireworks (the other being July 1 or Canada Day).
Like most Canadians, I know little about Queen Victoria. She is just that dowdy-looking queen who is always shown wearing black and who presided over a period of explosive growth of the British Empire and of the popularity of romantic novels. I understand, though, that she was a Christian. I have often heard a rather stirring quote attributed to her. “O how I wish the Lord would come during my lifetime,” she once said. When someone inquired why, she responded: “Because I should so love to lay the Crown of England at His feet.” And what a moving picture that is, of a ruler who would be so willing and eager to submit to the lordship of the One who rules all.
My plans for this Victoria Day involve a lot of writing. We have a busy week ahead and it leaves me needing to use at least part of this day to try to meet some writing deadlines. Hence I’ll take it easy, but still try to get some work done. If it gets warmer, brighter and sunnier than it is right now, I’ll probably take the kids to the park and spend some time with them there. But since it looks like we’re going to have rotten weather today I think it’s going to be an indoor kind of day. I guess that means we may watch a movie and play some board games. Sounds like an okay day to me.