What is the Meaning of Victoria Day in Canada?

surangaw/iStock/Getty Images

Known as the May Two-Four Weekend to some Canadians and as National Patriotes Day to Quebeckers, Victoria Day is a holiday as old as the country itself. On this day, most Canadians celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria, the British monarch who gave royal assent for Confederation, as well as the birthday of the reigning sovereign.

The Sovereign's Birthday

The celebration of Victoria Day goes dates back even before Confederation, which occurred in 1867; the Legislature of the Province of Canada declared Queen Victoria's birthday a holiday in 1845. After Confederation, a proclamation provided that the holiday should fall on May 25 if the previous day was a Sunday. Victoria Day became a legal holiday after the Queen's death in 1901. In 1952, Parliament changed Victoria Day to the first Monday following May 24, and in 1957, with the assent of Queen Elizabeth II, it became the day on which Canadians celebrate the birthday of the current monarch. It is sometimes known as Sovereigns' Day.

Not a Universal Canadian Holiday

Victoria Day isn't a statutory holiday in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland. People in Quebec observe a statutory holiday on the same day as the rest of Canadians, but they prefer to call it National Patriotes Day in honor of the activists who fought for democracy in 19th-century Quebec. The day is usually marked by fireworks displays in such cities across Canada, including Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Falls. The British flag flies alongside the Canadian one over the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.