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Introduced by the provincial government in 2013, Nova Scotia Heritage Day celebrates the unique people, heritage, and history of Nova Scotia on the third Monday in February. As part of the festivities, the provincial government honors an important Nova Scotian every year, with the first batch of honorees selected from a pool submitted by the province’s schoolchildren. One of Canada’s Easternmost provinces, Nova Scotia is the most populous of the Maritime Provinces and an important area of settlement for the indigenous Mi’kmaq people and, later, French and British colonists. The province claims the title of the world’s largest exporter of lobster and other fish, exporting seafood to over 90 countries.
History of Nova Scotia Heritage Day
A small and densely populated region in the far eastern reaches of Canada, Nova Scotia or New Scotland, has a long and diverse history. First inhabited by the Mi’kmaq people, the area was invaded by Europeans starting in the 1600s. France established its first North American settlement at Port Royal, which served as an important port and Acadian capital for over a century until the French gave up their claim in 1763. During the American War of Independence against Britain, thousands of British loyalists fled to Nova Scotia. In 1867, the province joined with New Brunswick and present-day Ontario and Quebec to form the beginnings of the modern Canadian nation.
Almost completely surrounded by water, Nova Scotia benefits from a relatively mild climate compared to its other northern counterparts. In the second half of the 19th century, the region became a world leader in the construction of wooden sailing ships. The seafood industry continued to be a backbone of the province’s economy well into the 20th century, but overfishing and the depletion of fish stocks caused sharp declines in productivity. Today, Nova Scotia is the world’s top exporter of Christmas trees, lobster, and gypsum. The province also hosts film production and a rapidly growing IT sector.
Started in 2015, Nova Scotia Heritage Day seeks to honor Nova Scotian history and culture as well as individuals who have made an impact. The first honoree, Viola Desmond, was a pioneering businesswoman who challenged racial and gender norms. In 2017, the holiday focused on the Mi’kmaq people and their contributions to the region’s culture and history.
Nova Scotia Heritage Day timeline
The French establish their first permanent settlement at Port Royal, beginning the colonization of Nova Scotia and its indigenous Mi'kmaq peoples.
With the Peace of Utrecht, the French abdicate control of peninsular Acadia to the British.
Although the province was claimed for King James VI of Scotland in 1621, the first significant influx of Scottish settlers only arrive in 1773 aboard the ship Hector.
In 2013, the provincial government passes a bill to create the holiday, which is first celebrated in 2015.
Nova Scotia Heritage Day FAQs
Is Nova Scotia an island?
Although it’s almost entirely surrounded by water, Nova Scotia is connected to the Canadian mainland by a 15-mile wide isthmus.
Is Nova Scotia cold?
Although its climate is temperate for Canada, you can still expect summer temperatures no higher than 70℉, while winters can easily reach below-freezing temperatures.
What languages are spoken in Nova Scotia?
Like the rest of Canada, Nova Scotia’s official languages are English and French. English is most widely spoken, but French, indigenous languages, and foreign languages spoken by recent immigrants all play a growing role in Nova Scotian society.
Nova Scotia Heritage Day Activities
Learn some Nova Scotia history
Nova Scotia is a fascinating corner of North America with a long and rich history. Take a few minutes to read or watch a documentary about this remote and unique Canadian province.
Buy a Nova Scotian product
Nova Scotia exports some of the world’s best lobster and seafood. If it’s near Christmastime, your Christmas tree might just come from there, too!
Learn about this year's honoree
Nova Scotia Heritage Day honors a different person or group every year. Read up on this year’s honoree to learn about how they impacted Nova Scotian history and culture.
5 Interesting Facts About Nova Scotia
A skinny province
Nova Scotia is no more than 80 miles wide at any point.
The province is the world's top exporter of lobster — over 50,000 tonnes of the tasty crustacean is hauled in from Nova Scotia's waters every year.
Oldest maritime museum in Canada
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is Canada's oldest and largest, featuring fascinating exhibits and artifacts from the province's long maritime history.
Titanic victims buried in Halifax
When the Titanic sank in 1912, crews from Halifax sped to the scene to find survivors and the bodies of victims — eventually, 150 victims were buried in Halifax cemeteries.
A long coast
Almost entirely surrounded by water, Nova Scotia has more than 8,000 miles of breathtaking coastline.
Why We Love Nova Scotia Heritage Day
It honors a little-known province
Nova Scotia doesn’t get a lot of attention, particularly outside of Canada. With a fascinating history and culture, this little province certainly deserves more widespread recognition!
It celebrates specific people
The holiday not only celebrates Nova Scotia’s history and culture but specifically honors individual people or groups each year, educating the public about important figures that have shaped the province’s history.
It’s an excuse to indulge in seafood
Since seafood is one of Nova Scotia’s biggest and most famous exports, celebrate Nova Scotia Heritage Day with some delicious seafood sourced from the province’s icy waters.
Nova Scotia Heritage Day dates