What is Victoria Day?
Victoria Day is a federal Canadian public holiday that is celebrated on the Monday before May 25th every year. This means that Victoria Day in 2022 will be celebrated on Monday, May 23. In 1845, the Province of Canada decided that Victoria Day would become a holiday. In 1901, they decided that it would become a national holiday as well. Currently, Victoria Day is Canada’s oldest non-religious public holiday.
Today, it is a statutory holiday in six of Canada’s ten provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, as well as all three of its territories. However, it is not celebrated in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. For those that do celebrate Victoria Day informally, many consider the holiday to mark the beginning of the summer season in Canada!
Why is it called Victoria Day?
This holiday is known as Victoria Day because it was originally celebrated in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday, which fell on May 24. During her lifetime, Queen Victoria ruled the United Kingdom and the British Empire. Her reign lasted for 63 years and seven months, a record that was beaten in September of 2015 by Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1901 after the death of Queen Victoria, Canada continued to celebrate her every May because of her contribution to Confederation. The British Empire at the time also decided to celebrate her birthday, declaring May 24th as Empire Day. Today, Victoria Day in Canada also celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday as well.
What Happens on Victoria Day?
In certain areas of Canada, Victoria Day is celebrated with parades, shows, food festivals, and other events. Many gather with their families, while others go on picnics with their friends. Sometimes, official festivals include athletic displays or competitions, military reviews and firework displays at night. Regardless of what you choose to do, Victoria Day is a holiday that can be packed with fun!
How to Celebrate Victoria Day in Vancouver and Toronto
Below are some of the events hosted on Victoria Day in Vancouver this year:
- Vancouver Wine Festival (May 16th to May 22nd)
- British Car Show at Van Dusen Garden (May 21st)
- Jurassic Quest in Abbotsford (May 20th to May 23rd)
- Fort Langley May Day Parade (May 23rd at 11:00 AM)
Below are some of the events hosted on Victoria Day in Toronto this year:
- Street Eats Festival (May 20th: it’s free!)
- Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cincinnati Reds at Rogers Center (the date depends)
- FizzFest Toronto (May 21st and May 22nd)
- JUNIOR Festival at Harbourfront Center (the date depends)
Do People Still Work on Victoria Day?
Because Victoria Day is a public holiday, federal employees can take a break as they are not required to work. However, some provinces that do not celebrate Victoria Day may not give their workers time off. For example, although Nova Scotia does not celebrate any holiday on May 23rd, the province allows its workers to take the day off, and many schools will be closed as a result. But in New Brunswick, workers cannot take the day off because it is not a paid statutory holiday under the Days of Rest Act.
Some Fun Facts
- During her lifetime, Queen Victoria had never once visited Canada!
- Canada is the only country that celebrates Victoria Day!
- Because many people believe that Victoria Day unofficially marks the beginning of summer, Canadians will often start planting flowers, fruits and vegetables in their gardens!
- On May 24, 1916, Canadian women over the age of 21 won the right to vote in federal elections. This was marked as one of the first steps toward gender equality in Canadian history.
- In some parts of Canada, May 24th is referred to as “May Two-Four”. This is because “Two-Four” is another way of saying “24”, and it is also Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (known as a “two-four”), a drink which is popular among Canadian adults during the long weekend.
- As mentioned previously, the holiday is not always celebrated on May 24. In 1952, the Canadian Parliament decided that Victoria Day would be celebrated on the Monday before May 24th. Because of this rule, although Victoria Day was celebrated on May 24th in 2021, it will be celebrated on May 23rd this year, May 22nd in 2023, and May 20th in 2024.