John Larrysson's Column: Victoria Day

Victoria Day is a very Canadian holiday. It started out much the same as the original English holiday, the Queen's Birthday1. In England, and in pre-1997 Hong Kong, the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second was a holiday. Although Hong Kong people did not celebrate the holiday, instead they just took a day off work. (Actually, I found myself working on that day.)

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Victoria (1819-1901) was queen when Canada became a country. She was the Mother of the Country. After Queen Victoria passed away, England and the Empire moved on and celebrated the birthday of the new king, Edward VII (1841-1910). Only Canada did not2. The name was changed from the Queen's Birthday to Victoria Day, but Canada kept on celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria.

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Originally the holiday was on the 24th of May, but this date could not always guarantee a long weekend. So the day was moved to the last Monday before May 25. The Canadian slang two-four normally refers to a case of twenty-four bottles of beer, the usual size for a beer purchase. Sometimes Victoria Day will be called May Two-Four.

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In Canada, Victoria Day happens to be at a time when the winter snow has melted and it is the first warm long-weekend of the year. Originally there was more emphasis on fireworks and patriotic parades. However today, Victoria Day is the unofficial celebration of the end of winter. People will put away winter coats and wear normal shirts. Gardeners will clean up winter's debris and put in new plants. Scouts will go camping. Seasonal businesses will open for the summer. Ski lodges will close.

So it is rather a popular holiday. Canadian leaders have long understood that anyone who wants to cancel this holiday will lose the next election. So Canada will remain stuck in the past and keep having camping trips and parties to mark the birthday of Queen Victoria. God save the Queen.

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1. The queen’s official birthday is not her actual birthday. So this holiday varies from country to country throughout the Commonwealth.

2. Almost only Canada, some cities in Scotland, for mysterious reasons of their own also continue to celebrate Victoria Day.


by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


NOTE:Starting in 2016, this column has been published once every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.

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