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.

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.

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Updated:  28 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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