Saturday, May 19, 2012

Victoria Day May Long Weekend in Canada

The Victoria Day long weekend is a long tradition in Canada, which has come to be largely separated from Her Majesty Queen Victoria's birthday of 24 May 1819.  Now, "May 24" is sooner associated with the convenient coincidence that there is 24 beers in a flat (or a case if you are Ontarioan), and has slightly less pomp and ceremony than earlier celebrations.

The weekend itself, of course, has had different flavours in different eras.  In 1902, the North West Mounted Police band paraded down the clap-board streets of Dawson, Yukon.  One must assume that God Save the Queen was on the playlist.

NWMP Band and Personnel, Victoria Day Parade, May 24th, 1902, Dawson, Yukon Territory.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada / e008128928
A Great War era poster of 1917 uses familiar imagery to promote an Ottawa fund raiser for veterans featuring a camp fire and "circus of sports".  This image of the rejoicing soldier, is central to a celebratory language of the war connecting the conflict to earthly triumph, which continued in Canada into the 1930s.   (Vance, Death so Noble, p.14)


Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-518
Canadian weather does not always cooperate with a late May celebration.  A 1953 photo of some young Calgarian women who bravely donned their bathing suits for a Bow River fishing session, shows that winter conditions were not too far in the past. Presumably they chose a warmer fishing spot, when the camera left the scene.
Glenbow Archives Image No: NA-5600-6194b
Title: Girls in swimsuits sun bathing and fishing on snow at the edge of the Bow River, Calgary, Alberta.
Date: May 1953
Photographer/Illustrator: De Lorme, Jack, Calgary, Alberta.
The May long weekend, in the age of auto-tourism is the first time of the year to pile the kids in the camper van and head out to the "wilderness".  In 1971, cartoonist Leonard Norris poked fun at the growing traffic issues accompanying this supposed tranquil escape.
"We promised the kids, if we get a break in the traffic we're going away for the long weekend." 
 Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1988-243-690
Copyright: Estate of Leonard Norris

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