When I ask someone, “what do you know about Victoria Day”, the most common answer I get is: “It’s Queen Victoria’s birthday.”
Over 200,000 Canadian CPAs (and 36 million Canadians) celebrate Victoria Day every year, yet not many Canadians understand the origin and history behind this holiday. It’s a well-deserved break during busy season, a sign of Spring’s arrival, an opportunity to spend time with friends and family, maybe watch some fireworks or a parade…but what else?
Queen Victoria was the first queen of Canada, and known as the “Mother of Confederation”.
If you are wondering why out of all the British Queens, Victoria’s the birthday is the one we celebrate—it is because she was the reigning queen when Canada was formed on July 1st, 1867.
Queen Victoria saw benefits of an united Canada, and used her authority (as well as the people’s loyalty to her) to bring leaders and political figures together. She also chose Ottawa as the Canadian capital, because it was situated between English and French Canada and would be difficult for American invasion.
This means that relatively, Queen Victoria is more significant to Canada than she is to England! This is reflected by the fact that Victoria Day is a national holiday in Canada, but not England or Great Britain.
Queen Victoria’s birthday is actually May 24.
The Canadian tradition of celebrating the Queen’s birthday on May 24 began as early as 1845. After her death in 1901, May 24 was declared by law to be Victoria Day.
For several decades, there were a lot of changes regarding when to celebrate the reigning monarch’s birthday. When Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952, her birthday (April 21) happened to coincide with Victoria Day, and thus Victoria Day was moved to the Monday before May 25—which is what we celebrate now.
The same holiday is called National Patriots’ Day in Quebec.
For many years Quebec celebrated Victoria Day with the rest of Canada. However in the 1920s, a growing Nationalist movement led to the holiday becoming celebrated as fête de Dollard, after Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, an iconic soldier in New France.
Fête de Dollard was replaced in 2003, when Journée nationale des patriotes (National Patriots’ Day) was established to underline the significance of Patriots in the 1830s.
Great Britain used to celebrate the same day as Empire Day, until 1977.
In 1904, May 24 was also declared Empire Day (later renamed Commonwealth Day), to celebrate the unity of the British empire and colonies throughout the world.
Because of a debate initiated by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (father of Justin Trudeau) at Commonwealth meeting in Jamaica, the holiday was moved to the second Monday of March. There is no historic significance to this date, and it was chosen because it would be a convenient date for all Commonwealth countries.
You probably know Victoria, BC, is named after Queen Victoria, but so is Regina, SK.
When Regina was founded in 1882, the Governor General of Canada was John Campbell, Duke of Argyll. His wife, Princess Louise, who was a daughter of Queen Victoria, decided to name the city Regina, the latin word for “queen”, after her mother.
Now that you know all this about Victoria Day, we hope you have a wonderful time celebrating it this weekend!
We at Luminari might not be able to get you more days off, but we are always trying to plan fun events for you to look forward to! Sign up to Luminari here, and we’ll look forward to putting a smile on your face 🙂