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Reluctant to Party: A Timeline of Canada Day Celebrations


Canadian Flag with Title - Stock Exchange, Standard Use

How long does it take a country to get in a partying mood?

IMG_4664We Canadians don’t usually turn down a reason to celebrate. In fact, many of us look for what we sometimes call ‘excuses’ to celebrate any type of special occasion with friends and family, and Canada Day is no exception.

Being close-knit, my family preferred intimate gatherings to large boisterous crowds, but we still found different ways to celebrate over the years. I remember afternoons of board games and barbeques, watching fireworks high above Lake Ontario and sunny picnics in Stratford Park.

One of my favourite Canada Day memories took place at one of these picnics. It was during my husband’s early years in the country after relocating from the States. Surrounded by Canada flag paraphernalia, including napkins, miniature flags everywhere and an umbrella hat bearing the maple leaf, not to mention the large billowing flag at the end of our picnic table, we initiated him into our family’s—and our country’s—enthusiastic Canada Day tradition.

IMG_4662It’s hard to miss the energy leading up to Canada Day—the sparklers and fire crackers, those funny red and white hats, incredible food, and everyone with a bounce in their step. With all the energy and ceremony surrounding July first, you’d think we had always been this way.

We haven’t.

In fact, we took over a century to get hyped about celebrating our country’s birthday. Not only were we slow to start the party, but it took federal grants and a royal proclamation to get us moving.

How did we let this happen? Well, let’s start at the beginning:

1867 – The Constitution Act marked Canada’s official beginning when Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec joined to create the kingdom of Canada.

1868 – The following year came the Governor General’s royal proclamation asking Canadians to celebrate.

IMG_46631879 – Twelve years after the Constitution Act, July first was declared a statutory holiday. However, Canada would wait another 38 years before officially celebrating Canada Day, or what was then called Dominion Day.

1917 – Finally, on Canada’s 50th birthday, the country held its first official celebration. Still, it would take nearly 50 more years before the occasion had any real pizazz.

1946 – Canadians squabbled over the name Dominion Day and whether to rename it Canada Day. The idea got as far as the House of Commons, which passed a bill to make the change.

However, the bill stalled when it reached the Senate, as another name was put forward: the National Holiday of Canada. This killed the bill, and Dominion Day would stick around for another 36 years.

1958 – Finally, 91 years after the Constitution Act, the Canadian government planned grandiose celebrations like the kind we’re familiar with today, livening up the country’s capital with music and fireworks. But it took almost decade for even this to catch on.

1967 – Then, on the 100th anniversary of the Constitution Act, the nation’s mood began to shift. With Canadian patriotism on the rise, Dominion Day celebrations took hold in Ottawa and were televised across the country.

But—yes, there’s another but—Canadians spent the next 15 years stuck in front of their television sets watching Ottawa have all the fun.

1980 – Despite Canada’s celebratory progress, the government still noticed a lack of initiative among citizens to host their own events. So the government distributed grants, encouraging cities to plan local activities.

1982 – The British Parliament relinquished the last of its political control over our country in the Canada Act. In response, Canadian politicians suggested again, and succeeded this time, to change the name to Canada Day.

So to answer our original question, it took Canada a total of 115 years to get in a partying mood. But now that we’ve finally arrived let’s keep this party going.

How do you plan to celebrate this year?


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