Could it be?
Could spring finally be here?
Based on the weather we’ve been experiencing lately, it’s hard to tell.
But the calendar says it’s the Victoria Day long weekend coming up and that is usually the time when most of us are finally fully thawed out and ready to start living again, as opposed to simply existing.
So whether you’re firing up the ‘Q’ and cracking a few ice-cold brewskis for the first time in months, hitting the links and plowing through the bushes looking for your ball or just planting the garden, let’s have a closer look at the grand old gal who the first official, non-winter long weekend is named after.
According to Wikipedia.com and a few other sources, Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1854 – a day that was celebrated long before our Confederation in 1867. At the time, an estimated crowd of 5,000 gathered at the corner of King and Simcoe Streets in Toronto to “give cheer to their Queen”. That’s how they talked back then.
Victoria Day is regarded as the beginning of the unofficial summer season in Canada, and is thus the weekend when many businesses, parks, etc., that operate during warm weather months, will open. It’s also the time of year when many parks and camping grounds are forced to close for a few weeks right after the long weekend to clean up the mess and repair the damages caused by all the crazies suffering from cabin fever.
This long weekend also often signifies the beginning of spring to gardeners in much of the country, as it falls around the time when they can be fairly certain frost will not return until the next autumn or winter. Note the words, ‘fairly certain’, ‘cause around here you just never know.
For much the same reason, because colder parts of the country winterize their recreational cabins and turn off water pumps, the Victoria Day long weekend can also mark the beginning of the cottage season with cottagers making their first visits to check and clean their properties. It’s usually a busy time for the RCMP too. Not so much because of the partiers, but because of all the cabin owners who discouver that they’ve been broken into over the winter and their places have been trashed.
In some parts of Canada, the holiday is affectionately known as the “May Two-Four”. This phrase has two meanings: the holiday always falls near the date of May 24, and a two-four is Canadian slang for a case of 24 bottles of beer, the most common packaging of the drink in Canada. You just knew we’d be putting our own, unique spin on the holiday. After all, by this time of the year there’s usually no Canadian teams left in the Stanley Cup playoffs, so what the hey, we may as well crack one open.
Even the world’s greatest power-trio got in on the act. Canadian rock band RUSH referred to Victoria Day celebrations in their song, Lakeside Park, when they sang of gathering at Lakeside Park (near Port Dalhousie, Ontario) and watching a fireworks display. Actually, they’re playing up in Edmonton on May Two-Seven. I’ve got my ticket – maybe I’ll see you there!
Several Canadian cities hold a parade in honour of the holiday, with the most famous being in the monarch’s namesake city of Victoria, British Columbia. This holiday is also often celebrated with fireworks shows.
While Victoria Day is celebrated in most parts of Canada, it is also an official holiday in Quebec where the Quebec National Assembly has dedicated the same day as a provincial holiday. They refer to it as National Patriotes Day, which commemorates the English-Canadian and French-Canadian Patriotes of the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837. Before 2003 the holiday in Québec was referred to by some as the Fête de Dollard, after Adam Dollard des Ormeaux. So if you find yourself celebrating with our brothers and sisters in Quebec, here’s a helpful hint: out there it’s known as the, “Mai Deux-Quatre”. Also, don’t expect to find a lot of Great Western Gold or Kokanee floating around. They usually stick with Molson’s products.
While Victoria Day is often thought of as a purely Canadian event, it is also celebrated in some parts of Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh and Dundee, as well as in the Cayman Islands, where it is also a public holiday. I must have missed something, but isn’t every day a holiday in the Cayman Islands?
This year though, there’s a bit of an anomaly as the holiday falls on Monday, May One-Nine, but that’s okay. After surviving through another long, dreary western Canadian winter, it’ll give us all a chance to get outdoors and celebrate the unofficial start of the barbecue, golf and gardening seasons.
So while your celebrating on May One-Nine, on May Two-Four or even on Mai Deux-Quatre, let’s all pause for a moment and raise a glass to Vicky, the grand old gal who made it all possible.
Let’s just try to remember to do it in a responsible and respectful manner and please, don’t drink and drive.