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Beginner’s Guide to…Victoria Day

On Monday, students and workers from across the country will be able to enjoy another day of leisurely rest and relaxation due to the federal public holiday known as Victoria Day. Celebrated on the last Monday before May 24, Victoria Day is a distinctly Canadian observance, as no other country in the world commemorates the birthday of the late Queen Victoria. But who exactly was Queen Victoria? And, why – and how – do Canadians choose to celebrate her? For those unfamiliar with the history and customs of this Canadian holiday, here is a quick overview of everything you need to know about Victoria Day!


A proper rundown of Victoria Day begins with the holiday’s namesake. Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom from 1837 to her death in 1901. As such, she was a reigning monarch for over 63 years. Most notably, Victoria was queen when Canada became its own country in 1867, and even chose Ottawa as the country’s capital. By advocating for Canadian unity and independence, Queen Victoria became known as the Mother of the Confederation.


The history of Victoria Day in Canada dates back to 1841, when the government of the then-Province of Canada sought to unite English and French communities through a public celebration. Eventually, it was decided that a public holiday honouring the birthday of the young Queen Victoria would appeal to both English and French sensibilities. But while the holiday was approved in 1841, it was not until 1854 when residents began gathering in public spaces to celebrate the Queen. Eventually, these gatherings evolved into day-long festivities that included parades, picnics, and athletic competitions. Following Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, the Canadian government made her birthday an official national holiday.

In 2003, the Quebec provincial government opted to celebrate National Patriots’ Day on the Monday preceding May 25. In other words, while National Patriots’ Day takes place on the same day as the national holiday, it instead serves to commemorate the soldiers who fought for political freedom during the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837. Many communities in Quebec celebrate National Patriots’ Day with music concerts and memorial dinners.


While the holiday initially honoured Canada’s loyalty to the Crown, in recent decades, Victoria Day has informally become synonymous with the beginning of the summer season. As a result, contemporary Victoria Day celebrations often involve outdoor activities, such as weekend cottage getaways, outdoor festivals, and community barbecues. It is also common for cities to organize massive parades and breathtaking fireworks displays to mark the occasion. Naturally, it should come as no surprise that the largest parade is held in the city whose namesake inspired the national holiday – Victoria, British Columbia.

So, there you have it! Victoria Day is as Canadian as bagged milk, ketchup-flavored chips, and merciless snow. So, this sunny long weekend, be sure to head outside and relish in the fact that summer is just around the corner!

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