Victoria Day

Victoria Day
Victoria Day
Victoria Day
A portrait in Ottawa City Hall of Queen Victoria, first sovereign of a confederated Canada
Official name English: Victoria Day
French: Fête de la Reine
Also called May Long Weekend, May Long, May Two-Four, May Run
Observed by Canadians
Type Historical, cultural, nationalist
Date Monday preceeding May 25
2010 date May 24
2011 date May 23
2012 date May 21
Celebrations Fireworks, parades
Related to Birthday of Queen Victoria
Victoria Day 2010 fireworks display from Ontario Place, Toronto

Victoria Day (in French: Fête de la Reine) is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. The date is also, simultaneously, that on which the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday is recognized. It is sometimes informally considered as marking the beginning of the summer season in Canada.

The holiday has been observed since before Canada was formed, originally falling on the sovereign's actual birthday, and continues to be celebrated in various fashions across the country on the fixed date. In Quebec, the same day was, since the Quiet Revolution, unofficially known as Fête de Dollard until 2003, when provincial legislation officially named the same date as Victoria Day the National Patriots' Day. It is a statutory holiday federally, as well as in six of Canada's ten provinces and three of its territories.



The birthday of Queen Victoria was a day for celebration in Canada long before Confederation, with the first legislation regarding the event being in 1845 passed by the parliament of the Province of Canada to officially recognize May 24 as the Queen's birthday.[1] It was noted that on that date in 1854, the 35th birthday of Queen Victoria, some 5,000 residents of Canada West gathered in front of Government House (near present day King and Simcoe Streets in Toronto) to "give cheers to their queen."[2] On May 24, 1866, the town of Omemee, also in Canada West, mounted a day-long fête to mark the occasion, including a gun salute at midnight, pre-dawn serenades, picnics, athletic competitions, a display of illuminations, and a torch-light procession.[3]

Victoria Day, 1854; crowds gather outside Government House in Toronto

Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, May 24 was by imperial decree made Empire Day throughout the British Empire, while, in Canada, it became officially known as Victoria Day,[1] a date to remember the late queen, who was deemed the "Mother of Confederation".[4] Over the ensuing decades, the official date in Canada of the reigning sovereign's birthday changed through various royal proclamations until the haphazard format was abandoned in 1952. That year, the Governor-General-in-Council moved Empire Day and an amendment to the law moved Victoria Day both to the Monday before May 25,[1][5] and the monarch's official birthday in Canada was by regular vice-regal proclamations made to fall on this same date every year between 1953 and January 31, 1957, when the link was made permanent by royal proclamation.[1][6] The following year, Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day and in 1977 it was moved to the second Monday in March, leaving the Monday before May 25 only as both Victoria Day and the Queen's Birthday.

Victoria Day celebrations were marred by tragedy in 1881, when a passenger ferry named Victoria overturned in the Thames River, near London, Ontario. The boat departed in the evening with 600 to 800 people on board — three times the allowable passenger capacity — and capsized part way across the river, drowning some 182 individuals, including a large number of children who had been with their families for Victoria Day picnics at Springbank Park. The event came to be known as the Victoria Day disaster.[7]


Official protocol dictates that on Victoria Day the Royal Union Flag must be flown from sunrise to sunset at all federal government buildings — including airports, military bases, and other Crown owned property across the country — where physical arrangements allow (i.e. where a second flag pole exists, as the Royal Union Flag can never displace the national flag).[1] Royal salutes (21-gun salutes) are fired in each provincial capital and in the national capital at noon on Victoria Day.

Several cities will hold a parade on the holiday, with the most prominent being that which has taken place since 1898 in the monarch's namesake city of Victoria, British Columbia.[8][9] In nearby New Westminster, the Victoria Day weekend is distinguished by the Hyack Anvil Battery Salute, a tradition created during colonial times as a surrogate for a 21-gun salute: Gunpowder is placed between two anvils, the top one upturned, and the charge is ignited, hurling the upper anvil into the air. Other celebrations include an evening fireworks show, such as that held at Ashbridge's Bay Beach in the east end of Toronto, and at Ontario Place, in the same city. As a federal holiday, Victoria Day remains a holiday in Quebec. However, in 2003, the province's legislative assembly passed legislation that dedicated the same day as National Patriots' Day, which commemorates the patriotes of the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837. This replaced the Fête de Dollard, which had been celebrated by Quebeckers on Victoria Day since the 1960s and which commemorated Adam Dollard des Ormeaux.

Turkish Canadians march in the 2007 Victoria Day parade in Victoria, British Columbia

Across the country, Victoria Day serves as the unofficial marker of the end of the winter social season, and thus the beginning of the summer social calendar.[10] Banff, Alberta's Sunshine Village ends its lengthy ski season on Victoria Day,[11] and, likewise, it is during this long weekend that many summer businesses — such as parks, outdoor restaurants, bicycle rentals, city tour operators, etc. — will open. Victoria Day is also a mark of the beginning of the cottage season, the time when cottage owners may reverse the winterization of their property.[12] Gardeners in Canada will similarly regard Victoria Day as the beginning of spring, as it falls at a time when one can be fairly certain that frost will not return until the next autumn.

The holiday is colloquially known as May Two-Four in parts of Canada;[13][14][15][16][17] a double entendre that refers both to the date around which the holiday falls (May 24) and the Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a "two-four"), a drink popular during the long weekend. The holiday weekend may also be known as May Long or May Run,[16][18][19] and the term Firecracker Day was also employed in Ontario.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Department of Canadian Heritage. "Ceremonial and Canadian Symbols Promotion > Victoria Day > Sovereign's Birthday". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  2. ^ Killbourn, William (1984). Toronto Remembered. Toronto: Soddart Publishing. p. 105. ISBN 978-0773720299. 
  3. ^ "Ontario Genealogy Historical Newspaper Reading Collection - Omemee > Omemee Victoria Day Celebrations - 1866". Ontario and Upper Canada Genealogy and History. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  4. ^ Bousfield, Arthur; Toffoli, Garry (1991). Royal Observations. Toronto: Dundurn Press Ltd.. p. 10. ISBN 1-55002-076-5. Retrieved September 14, 2010. "The Queen's role in promoting Canadian unity truly made her the "Mother of Confederation" and at her death Victoria Day, that uniquely Canadian holiday, was created as a memorial day..." 
  5. ^ Elizabeth II (December 12, 1988), Holidays Act, Queen's Printer for Canada 
  6. ^ Elizabeth II (11 October 1957), Proclaimed for Celebration of Queen's Birthday, Queen's Printer for Canada,, retrieved 24 May 2011 
  7. ^ "The Victoria Day Disaster". London and Middlesex Historical Society. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Arts and Culture > Festivals & Celebrations > Victoria Day". City of Victoria. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Giant Victoria Day Parade takes over Douglas St.". Times Colonist. May 21, 2007. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  10. ^ Tong, Tracy (March 19, 2008). "Victoria Day seen as family time". Metro. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  11. ^ "The Mountain > The Mountain Overview". Sunshine Village. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  12. ^ Tynan, Jack (May 14, 2003). "Step by step work guide for Victoria Day opening of cottage". North Star (Parry Sound: North Star Publishing). Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  13. ^ Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2 ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. ISBN 978-0195418163. [Need quotation to verify]
  14. ^ "CBC News > Indepth > Language > 5,000 new words". CBC. July 26, 2004. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  15. ^ "May Two-Four or Victoria Day?". Toronto Sun. May 22, 2010. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b "Victoria Day in Canada". Time and Date AS. Retrieved May 17, 2010. 
  17. ^ Finch, Robert (May 15, 2009), "Give her some respect – it’s not May 2-4 weekend", Hamilton Mountain News,, retrieved May 24, 2011 
  18. ^ "May Long Weekend 2009 Closures". Access Winnipeg. Retrieved May 21, 2009. 
  19. ^ Redmond, John (May 19, 2009). "Canadians Invite Community to Victoria Day BBQ". The Korea Times (Seoul: The Korea Times Co.). Retrieved May 21, 2009. 
  20. ^ Wilcox, Ted (May 16, 2008). "Firecracker Day". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved April 20, 2010. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Victoria Day — n. a legal holiday in Canada, celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25: originally May 24, Queen Victoria s birthday …   English World dictionary

  • Victoria Day — a public holiday held in May in Canada …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Victoria Day — (in Canada) the first Monday preceding May 25, observed as a national holiday. * * * ▪ Canadian holiday       Canadian (Canada) holiday on which the British sovereign s birthday is celebrated. In 1845, during the reign of Queen Victoria… …   Universalium

  • Victoria Day (Canada) — Infobox Holiday holiday name = Victoria Day type = required longtype = national caption = A portrait of Queen Victoria in Ottawa s City Hall. official name = English: Victoria Day French: Fête de la Reine nickname = May Two four, May Long, May… …   Wikipedia

  • Victoria Day — noun A holiday commemorating the birthdays of Queen Victoria and the reigning monarch of Canada, falling on the last Monday before May 25. Syn: May long weekend, May Long, May Two Four, May Run, Queens Birthday, Patriotes Day, Fête de Dollard,… …   Wiktionary

  • Victoria Day — noun Etymology: Queen Victoria Date: 1901 1. formerly May 24 and now the Monday preceding May 25 observed in Canada as a legal holiday 2. Commonwealth Day …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Victoria Day — Victo′ria Day n. (in Canada) the first Monday preceding May 25, observed as a national holiday; formerly May 24, birthday of Queen Victoria …   From formal English to slang

  • Victoria Day — noun (in Canada) the Monday which precedes May 24, observed as a national holiday to commemorate the birthday of Queen Victoria …   English new terms dictionary

  • Victoria Day — noun a public holiday in Canada on the Monday on or before May 24th • Hypernyms: ↑legal holiday, ↑national holiday, ↑public holiday …   Useful english dictionary

  • Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden — Victoria Crown Princess of Sweden Duchess of Västergötland The Duke and Duchess of Västergötland after their wedding in June 2010 Spouse …   Wikipedia

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