In my novel, Angel of Mercy, Hettie’s birthday and her marriage to Geoffrey Bartlette correspond with the celebration of Victoria Day. If you’re American, you may be unaware of this holiday or why Canadians celebrate it. (This post is a companion piece to my WWI Trilogy, Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year, available wherever eBooks are sold.)
The holiday commemorates the birthday of Queen Victoria who was born May 24, 1819. It did not become a federal holiday, however, until after the queen’s death in 1901.
Unofficial observances of the holiday began in the mid-19th century.
So what was a Victoria Day celebration like before 1901?
- Lighting displays
- Athletic competitions
- Gun salutes
- Cheers for the queen
The holiday became a patriotic one by the 1890s and, therefore, included displaying and waving the Union Jack.
Contemporary Victoria Day Celebrations
After 1901, other parts of the British Empire celebrated Empire Day on May 24. In Canada, however, it remained Victoria Day.
“Canada honoured Queen Victoria as a ‘Mother of Confederation’ who encouraged Canadian unity and self-government and selected Ottawa as ‘the Westminster of the wilderness,’” the Canadian Encyclopedia explains.
In the 21st century, the holiday is celebrated on the Monday preceding May 24. It is considered the unofficial start of summer.
Contemporary Victoria Day is still celebrated with parades, food and fireworks.
Updated: 28 October 2020