What is Victoria Day and Why Do Canadians Celebrate It?

Queen Victoria's birth inspired Victoria Day

What is Victoria Day and Why Do Canadians Celebrate It?

After the death of Queen Victoria, Canadians continued to celebrate Victoria Day
After the death of Queen Victoria, Canadians continued to celebrate Victoria Day

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?

It included:

  • Picnics
  • Parades
  • Music
  • Lighting displays
  • Athletic competitions
  • Gun salutes
  • Cheers for the queen
  • Fireworks

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.

The WWI Trilogy by Melina Druga
The WWI Trilogy by Melina Druga: Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year

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Updated:  28 October 2020
Melina Druga
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Melina Druga is a multi-genre author with a lifelong love of history, books and the English language. She pens historical fiction, chick lit and nonfiction.
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