To Canadians, Victoria Day — the Monday before May 25 — on May 20 this year, signifies the beginning of summer and the arrival of warmer, greener days. But, much like Independence Day in the U.S., Victoria Day has more colonial roots than are usually discussed amidst all the fireworks and jolly gatherings. This day marks the birthday of Queen Victoria, who was the ruling monarch at the time of Canada’s birth as a country in 1867. It’s a day to celebrate all the wonderful things that make Canada, Canada.
History of Victoria Day
This celebration of the iconic British queen began in 1845 when the Canadian government announced Victoria’s birthday on May 25 as a national holiday. It wasn’t until after Queen Victoria died in 1901, however, that the holiday was fully solidified in the country as an official holiday. In 1952, Canada redesigned the celebrations for the Monday preceding May 25.
Queen Victoria is significant to the Canadian people because she held the throne in 1867 when they were awarded their independence as an entity of the British Empire. She’s also responsible for labeling Ottawa as the nation’s capital. Up until 1956, the succeeding monarchs’ birthdays would be celebrated either on their true birthdays or also on May 25, Queen Victoria’s. When reigning Queen Elizabeth took her title, Canada named May 25 as her official birthday within the borders of the chilly North American country, though her real day of birth is April 21.
Contrary to what many might think, Victoria Day is not spent learning about the history of the British monarchy, nor is it spent crafting miniature sculptures of Queen Victoria out of clay or paint. This day is all about ringing in the new summer season which, to people who live quite near the North Pole, is a significant occasion.
By the time this holiday rolls around each year, Canadians have been through a long, snowy, gray winter. As the leaves on the trees turn green and the chill gives way to balmy breezes, Canadians strip to their swimsuits and go for their first swims, hold sports tournaments, and enjoy refreshing summer feasts.
Victoria Day timeline
The early Canadian government designates May 25 as a day of celebration from border to border.
With Victoria as the reigning royal, Britain grants Canada its national independence.
Queen Victoria dies and Canada establishes Victoria Day as an official national holiday.
Due to Queen Victoria’s staunch religious beliefs, Canada shifts Victoria Day to occur on the Monday preceding May 25 to avoid celebrations on Sundays.
Victoria Day FAQs
Is it Victoria Day in England?
Victoria Day is a Canadian holiday and is not observed in most of England. It is, however, celebrated in some parts of Scotland.
Do you get paid for Victoria Day?
Yes, if an employee works on Victoria Day, then the employee is entitled to general holiday pay.
Why do we celebrate Victoria Day?
Queen Victoria advocated for the nation’s independence and did not stand in its way whatsoever during its early dealings with England.
How to Observe Victoria Day
Attend a parade.
If you’re in or near Canada (or even a group of native Canadians), use this holiday to let loose at a celebratory parade. In a show of patriotism, cheer, and loyalty, Canadians line up a series of floats, flags, and displays to showcase on this day. There’s lots of candy, music, and warm weather to be enjoyed!
Tour a Victorian home.
If you’re in the U.S.A. on this holiday, things can feel pretty quiet. In your own show of celebration, schedule a tour of a local Victorian home. Queen Victoria made her impact on the U.S. by lending her intricate, classic architectural style to our 19th century home standard. Most Victorian homes in the U.S. receive protected status as historical landmarks and can be visited by tourists with ease.
Play a game of cricket.
One of the most popular activities on Victoria Day is to join together under the summer sun for a sports game. Cricket is a British pastime that made it across the ocean into Canada as it developed into its own country. To join the partiers on this momentous day, gather some friends and enjoy the balmy weather.
5 Jaw-Dropping Facts About Queen Victoria
Alexandrina Victoria of England was crowned queen at the young age of 18.
Victoria had nine children with her husband Albert.
Bride in white
Victoria is responsible for making the white wedding dress a popular choice for Western brides.
On the cutting edge
With access to the latest medical developments, Queen Victoria was the first to test out the pain-minimizing effects of chloroform during childbirth.
At the time of her death, Victoria had been the longest-reigning royal, at 60 years on the throne.
Why we Love Victoria Day
We get time off after a long winter
This holiday occurs at the end of the Canadian school year and after a typically cold and slow winter. Since it occurs on a weekday, it also allows laborers and students nationwide to take a long weekend and enjoy some leisure time in their local communities.
It ushers in a new season
In Canada, summer means more travel, more social activity, and an economic upswing as tourists travel to Canada’s many national parks and urban cities. While Victoria Day is technically about the celebration of a queen, it has also come to be a landmark day for the transition between cool and warm weather.
People emerge from their routines
This holiday is a particularly active one in its common celebrations. On this day, each year, people suit up in their athletic wear and engage in health-conscious activities such as playing sports, going for walks, and attending family gatherings. Communities and families reunite for the first time, perhaps, since the winter holidays.
Victoria Day dates