Queen Victoria shaped Canadian history and culture ever since the country’s earliest days. From when it was first observed to where and how it’s celebrated today, Point2 breaks down everything you need to know about the Queen’s namesake holiday that marks the unofficial start of summer — Victoria Day.
What Is Victoria Day?
Victoria Day is the oldest state holiday in Canada. As the name suggests, it commemorates Queen Victoria, the second-longest reigning British monarch after Queen Elizabeth II. She ruled over Ireland and Great Britain while also being Empress of India, and was on the throne from 1837 until her death in 1901.
As Queen Victoria was reigning when Canada gained its independence in 1867, the Canadian government decided to declare a holiday in her honor. In fact, honoring her continued by naming a multitude of places after her, from Victoria, BC and Regina, SK to various streets and landmarks across the country. While Victoria Day was originally meant to celebrate only Victoria’s birthday, in Canada it also commemorates Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday.
When Is Victoria Day & How Is It Celebrated?
Although you may still hear people refer to it as “May Two-Four”, Victoria Day is celebrated on the Monday that precedes May 25th.
For some Canadians nowadays, Victoria Day is synonymous with May Long Weekend. But back in the early days, holiday celebrations were sparse and quiet, with festivities becoming more popular towards the end of the 1800s. The fact that it fell during the country’s transition to warmer weather made it easy for Canadians to embrace the holiday and make the most of it.
Back in 1867 during the Confederation, the people of Québec and Ontario held day-long celebrations with picnics, parades, fireworks, athletic competitions, and more. Festivities began to spread as more provinces joined the Confederation, to be enjoyed every May 24th regardless of what day it fell on during the week.
Today, people often celebrate Victoria Day with outdoor events like parades, camping, and fireworks. The holiday is also associated with the opening of summer getaways like cabins and chalets, and people also enjoy cookouts and fun outdoor festivals.
When Was Victoria Day First Observed?
In 1841, a sole unified legislative assembly replaced the parliaments of Upper and Lower Canada. Looking for ways to unite French and English Canadians, the idea of a holiday honoring Queen Victoria’s birthday appealed to both sides. So, four years later, the legislative assembly of the Province of Canada declared her birthday (May 24th) as an official public holiday.
After the Queen died in 1901, the Canadian government declared her birthday a legal holiday to be celebrated on May 24th (or May 25th if it fell on a Sunday). However, when Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952, the holiday was officially moved to be celebrated on the Monday that precedes May 25th, creating a long holiday weekend (known also as May Long or the May Long Weekend) for Canadians — which is how it’s celebrated nowadays.
People Also Ask
Why is Queen Victoria important to Canada?
Historically, Queen Victoria played an essential role in developing the Dominion of Canada. Although she never set foot in Canada herself, her cultural influence and impact on the direction that consolidated the country in its early days are undeniable. She was also the one who chose Ottawa as the country’s capital.
When is Victoria Day?
Victoria Day is celebrated on the Monday that precedes May 25th, creating a long weekend of holiday in every province and territory. For instance, in 2023, Victoria Day falls on Monday, May 22nd.
Is Victoria Day a paid holiday?
For Victoria Day, federal workers are usually off, with pay. However, provinces or territories typically state whether other employees are also entitled to a paid day off on this holiday.
What is “Victoria Day” in French?
In the French parts of Canada, the holiday is also known as “fête de la Reine”, which is French for “holiday of the Queen” or “the Queen’s holiday”.