Victoria Day

Victoria Day (Fête de la Reine) is a Canadian Statutory Holiday celebrated on the Monday on or before May 24 in honour of both Queen Victoria's birthday and the current reigning Canadian sovereign's birthday. Though, as a national holiday, it is still an official holiday in Quebec, the Quebec National Assembly dedicated the same day as a provincial holiday: National Patriotes Day (Journée nationale des patriotes), which commemorates the English-Canadian and French-Canadian Patriotes of the Rebellion of 1837. Before 2003 the holiday in Quebec was referred to by some as the Fête de Dollard after Adam Dollard des Ormeaux.

Since 1901 24 May had been celebrated throughout the British Empire as Empire Day. An amendment to the Statutes of Canada in 1952 moved the holiday to the Monday before 25 May. From 1953 Empire Day was made the date of the Queen's official birthday in Canada by annual Vice-regal proclamation, the link being made permanent in 1957. In 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day.

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Victoria Day 2005 fireworks display from Ontario Place, Toronto

In 1977 Commonwealth Day was moved to the second Monday in March, but Canadians continued to celebrate Victoria Day in May. In Canada, this holiday and Canada Day are celebrated with fireworks, though Victoria Day is a decidedly lower-key event. Monarchist groups often use Victoria Day as a day of celebration, but to the majority of Canadians the day is simply a holiday off from work, with little specific meaning.

This is the first of the summer long weekends in Canada, and is known colloquially as "May two-four weekend". The phrase has two meanings, the first is the fact that it usually falls around 24 May, and secondly, those who celebrate will often get together to drink beer (a two-four is a case of 24 bottles of beer). Note that the holiday may be referred to as "May two-four" even if it falls as early as May 18.

This long weekend often signifies the beginning of spring to gardeners in much of the country as it falls around the time when they can be fairly certain frost will not return until the next winter.

There has been some debate in recent years about revamping Victoria Day, and giving it a new name or meaning, such as "Heritage Day" or "Citizenship Day." There have also been proposals alongside a revamping to move the date and have it always concurrent with the U.S. Memorial Day, which falls seven days later, for a common long weekend. This is especially favoured by businesspeople with close ties to the U.S.

In Newfoundland, the Victoria Day long weekend is known as The May 24th Weekend. Traditionally, people celebrate the long weekend by camping, but due to the fickle, unpredictable, and even spiteful nature of Newfoundland's "Spring", the weekend is referred to as always having particularly bad weather such as rain, fog, or even snow. It is a reoccurring phenomenon, and this stigma is implanted into Newfoundland culture.

As The Queen was in Canada from 17 May to 25 May 2005, to mark the centennials of the entries of Saskatchewan and Alberta into Confederation, Victoria Day 2005, marked the first time a reigning Canadian monarch had been present in the country during his/her official birthday.

See also Commonwealth Day.

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