Victoria Day

Origin, Celebrations and More!

Written by Kennealy Nolan

All across Canada, people celebrate Victoria Day with their friends and family, relishing in a peaceful day off. The holiday was established to honour the late Queen Victoria II and the work she did as Sovereign. Although there is a significant number of Canadians who question the importance of the Monarchy and its relevance to present-day Canada, a February 2021 opinion poll taken by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies highlights that 33% of Canadians agree with the statement, “The British Monarchy is part of our history, we must preserve this heritage.” For more than a third of Canadians, Victoria Day is not only an excuse for a three-day weekend in mid-spring but an occasion to truly celebrate an influential Monarch in history.

Who was Queen Victoria II?

Queen Victoria II was born into the Royal Family on May 24th, 1819. As a child, Victoria had interests in drawing, painting, and journal writing and was known for her feisty temperament. Although her father died when she was eight months old, she was surrounded by the love and support of her mother, her half-sister Feodora, and her Governess throughout her childhood. When Victoria’s uncle, King William IV, passed away during the summer of 1837, she ascended to the throne. As she was the only heir, at the age of eighteen, Victoria found herself the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Throughout her reign, she ruled over Great Britain and Ireland. She was also named the Empress of India in 1876. While she was Queen, there was a great deal of cultural expansion. She oversaw industry, science and communication advances, and the progression of railways along with the building of the London Underground. When Canada became its own country in 1867, Queen Victoria II was Sovereign of the new nation and it was she who chose Ottawa as the capital. In fact, numerous modern-day traditions were established during her reign. These include the custom of brides wearing white on their wedding day. Queen Victoria broke with Royal tradition and wore white when she married Prince Albert and ever since that time brides have done the same. Also, the practice of putting up and decorating a Christmas tree each December became popular during her reign. When the world saw the Royal family gathered around a Christmas tree that Prince Albert brought from his native Germany, others quickly followed suit. Despite the fact that she faced several challenges in her youth, Queen Victoria II grew to be a woman of great influence. 

How was Victoria Day Created?

Although Victoria Day is a nationally recognized holiday, not everyone is informed on the history behind it. Originally, the holiday was established in 1845. The legislature of the province of Canada declared her birthday, May 24th, an unofficial holiday. If the Queen’s birthday occurred on a Sunday, the festivities and celebrations would be pushed to the following day. Queen Victoria served with dedication as Monarch for sixty-four years, until her death in 1901.  At the time of her passing, the Canadian Government honoured the Queen’s life by creating a legal holiday on her birthday. This holiday was aptly named Victoria Day. In 1952, when changes were made to the statutes of Canada, Victoria Day was permanently moved to the Monday prior to May 25th. This modification ensures that this day is set aside to honour an important female leader in the Monarchy. 

Celebrations

Each year Victoria Day is commemorated, nationally, with the use of fireworks and parades. It is an enjoyable time since the majority of Canadians receive the day off of work and/or school. Alongside the many festivities that take place, Victoria Day is also marked by the raising of the Royal Union Flag (the Union Jack). From sunrise to sunset on May 24th, all Federal buildings fly the Royal Union Flag. These buildings include airports and military bases. Since the Royal Union Flag cannot replace the Canadian Flag, these federal establishments must have two flag poles on the premises. This practice, along with the revelry, provides a visible reminder to all Canadians that this day of celebration honours a woman who shaped much of this country in its earliest years. 

As Victoria Day approaches, it is important to remember the reason why we celebrate the holiday and the significance behind it. Queen Victoria was a powerful female leader who expanded Great Britain and Canada in multiple ways throughout the majority of the Nineteenth century. Enjoy your long weekend and stay safe Knights! 

Sources

Biography.com Editors. “Queen Victoria Biography.” Biography, A&E Television Networks, 2 April 2014 https://www.biography.com/royalty/queen-victoria#:~:text=Queen%20Victoria%20served%20as%20monarch,second%2Dlongest%20reigning%20British%20monarch.  

Canada’s History. “The Story of Victoria Day.” Canada’s History, Canada’s History Society, 5 November 2015, https://www.canadashistory.ca/explore/arts-culture-society/the-story-of-victoria-day  

Government of Canada. “Victoria Day.” Government of Canada, Canada, 24 October 2018, https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/important-commemorative-days/victoria-day.html  

Kim, Allen. “What Is Victoria Day?” CNN, CNN Worldwide, 18 May 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/18/world/victoria-day-canada-trnd/index.html  

Leger. “Relevance Of The British Monarchy In Canada Survey.” Leger, Treize, 11 February 2021, https://leger360.com/surveys/relevance-british-monarchy-canada-julie-payette-survey/   

Rabon, John. “Queen Victoria – The Beginning Of Modern Royal Traditions.” Anglotopia, Anglotopia LLC, 17 July 2018, https://anglotopia.net/british-history/queen-victoria-beginning-modern-royal-traditions/  

Williams, Edgar. “Victoria.” Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 29 March 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Victoria-queen-of-United-Kingdom  

Young, Leslie. “Why We Still Celebrate Queen Victoria’s Birthday.” Global News, Corus Entertainment, 20 May 2016, https://globalnews.ca/news/2714339/why-we-still-celebrate-queen-victorias-birthday/   

Picture Credits: https://www.officeholidays.com/holidays/canada/victoria-day

Thomson, KarrieVictoria Day