But there's far more to the holiday than that if we were to look into its history. Victoria Day was first declared as a holiday in 1845, and was celebrated on Queen Victoria's actual birthday - May 24.
|Statue of Queen Victoria outside the British Columbia Parliament Buildings in Victoria, B.C.|
(Note: I actually have yet to see this arrangement in person; if anyone has, and has photos, please let me know in a comment - thanks!)
Therefore, it is fitting - and likely no coincidence - that this year's Victoria Day will coincide with a royal visit as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall take part in a tour of the Maritimes and Manitoba from May 18 through to May 21, 2014. For those in Canada who like to uphold its British heritage and the historical ties with the British monarchy, there is no better way of celebrating Victoria Day.
However, there is, at least, one part of Canada where the story is significantly different: the Province of Quebec. There, Victoria Day (which translates to "Fête de la Reine" - "the Queen's birthday" - in French), has a very different name: La Journée Nationale des Patriotes (National Patriots' Day).
|A poster produced for La Journée Nationale des Patriotes in Quebec. You can see here the tricolour flag of the Patriotes, as well as the slogan of one particular branch, called the Fils de la Liberté (Sons of Liberty): "En Avant!"|
How does any of this mesh with a holiday that, for many, seems to be a celebration of Canada's British heritage, and Canada's position as a constitutional monarchy and a member of the British Commonwealth? Well, while Queen Victoria is remembered as Canada's "Mother of Confederation", since the nation was first granted its independence in 1867 during her reign, there is no doubt that, in popular consciousness, she is still the figurehead of the British Empire during the 19th century. A representative, if you will, of the British and Anglophone hegemony in Canada that arguably still persists today. Yet Canada is not just English; it is French, First Nations, and many other cultures besides.
Given this, La Journée Nationale des Patriotes is Quebec's message to the rest of Canada, and one that could be echoed by many others here who have been relegated to the sidelines over the years: we still exist, and our history is just as important as yours.
So no matter what you decide to call the holiday that is marked across Canada on Monday, May 19, 2014, know that its very existence is a testament to our nation's diversity in culture, and in history.
Note: I would like to thank a friend I had a few years ago, Jean-Philippe Bonneville from the Montreal area, for first introducing me to La Journée Nationale des Patriotes. I hadn't heard about it at all until he mentioned it to me back in 2011, and that's become the core inspiration for this post.
Department of Canadian Heritage. "Victoria Day". Government of Canada, 1 May 2013. Web. 17 May 2014.
Office of the Premier of Quebec. "Congé férié à l’occasion de la Journée nationale des Patriotes". Gouvernement de Québec, 24 Nov. 2002. Web. 17 May 2014.
The Canadian Press. "Prince Charles, Camilla set to arrive in Halifax for whirlwind tour." CBC News. 18 May 2014. Web. May 18 2014.
Photograph of British Columbia Parliament Buildings (c) Kita Inoru (taken 25 May 2011)
Poster for La Journée des Patriotes (c) Journeedespatriotes.qc.ca (retrieved 17 May 2014)