Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy Victoria Day!

Well, Victoria Day weekend, at least. The actual Victoria Day is May 24th. (Queen Victoria's birthday.) This is a long weekend holiday for us.

Kirsten, Bree, and Felicity are going camping with one of their friends' families - believe it or not, their campground has internet access, so they may stop by and say hi. The rest of us are having a barbecue in the backyard tomorrow; our neighbours are going to join us. No school for anyone on Monday! Should be fun.

If you know much about the history of our province, you may be wondering why we celebrate Victoria Day...

Yeah, Canada recognizes the British monarchy as ours also, but Newfoundlanders have in general had pretty mixed feelings about the royals ever since World War I, when an entire generation of young men was lost, poorly equipped and trained and basically used as cannon fodder. Newfoundland didn't become part of Canada until the late 1940's; it was British till then, and loyalty to the then-king provided a major incentive for men and boys to join the army in the first world war. So it seemed like a betrayal, not just a military defeat, when so many died needlessly because they were considered expendable.

For a pithy but accurate explanation of this, Great Big Sea has addressed it in a couple of songs. For the history, see "Recruiting Sergeant."  Then the more modern view is summed up in another song, "Over the Hills." Specifically the "The queen has called and we obey"/"We owe the crown and now we'll pay..." lines.

Recruiting Sergeant song and Lyrics

Most references in the song should be clear, but the CLB is the Church Lads' Brigade, an organization for boys age 4 to 21. It's sort of like cross between Boy Scouts and religious ROTC. "The stone men on Water Street" describes a war memorial that has become a major local landmark.

Over the Hills (really terrible sound quality, sorry!) or Sample (higher quality but a short section) and Lyrics

So why do we celebrate Victoria Day? From what we understand... mainly as an excuse for a holiday! It's seen as the end of the long winter, and most people will either go camping or at the very least spend some time outdoors. Hopefully no more snow. We'll be enjoying our long weekend!

The Green Girls


  1. Happy Victoria Day! I love holidays. We have Memorial Day this weekend. The 24th also, I think. If it's nice out we'll get to have a picnic. Have fun camping or BBQing!


  2. Happy Victoria Day!!! Quick question, but is Victoria Day similar to the American Memorial Day?
    The latest holiday in France was May 8th- Jour de Victoire 1945. Oui, I celebrate VE Day just to celebrate...and out of my gratefulness that France was able to become an country free from control and collaboration.
    My favorite holiday is Bastille Day, which is like America's independence day. Sometimes, my family went to Paris. We watched fireworks under the Eiffel Tower or as we rode down the Seine on a boat. We ate ice cream and sang "La Marseillaise"...
    ...I'm feeling very homesick now. :(
    (PS- have fun!)

  3. Thanks, Emily! :-)

    Sabine, Victoria Day is really just Queen Victoria's birthday. (Celebrated as an excuse to go camping.)

    We brought up the war-related stuff mainly to indicate why people here often feel pretty conflicted about the royals... so it's kind of strange that we acknowledge it. I think we may have gotten too much off on that tangent and made it confusing. Sorry!

    Victoria Day is just about the monarchy. (And camping!)

    We have Remembrance Day here, which is in November and is similar to American Memorial Day or Veterans Day, and also Canada Day in the summer.

    Canada Day is another problematic holiday here, though, because it falls on the same day as the traditional Memorial Day in Newfoundland. Officially both are celebrated simultaneously.

    In practice, however, it can be very awkward to celebrate a pro-national holiday and remember people who died in wars on the same day. Older people (who remember before Newfoundlanders were Canadians) get angry at younger people for not being solemn, and younger people (who have always been Canadian in their lifetime) get angry at older people for looking down on their fun.

    A lot of people go to memorial events in the morning and fireworks at night... and feel awkward the whole time. :-P

    Hope that makes things clearer.

    Your holidays sound really neat! Thanks for sharing that! :-)