Celebrate Victoria Day in Canada

You know it's Victoria Day in the land of maple leaves when you notice the popping up of Canadian flags, the scent of sizzling burgers on the grill, and the joyous anticipation of summer's official (though not quite meteorological) arrival. This long weekend, nestled between spring showers and the promise of sunshine, is a cherished tradition for Canadians coast to coast. Whether you crave outdoor adventures, peaceful relaxation, or the flavors of this North American wonderland, Victoria Day in Canada offers something for everyone.

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What is Victoria Day?

Prepare to Celebrate | Celebrate Victoria Day in Canada

Victoria Day, observed on the last Monday preceding May 25th, is a federal public holiday in Canada. It honors Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901 and is fondly known as the "Mother of Confederation" for her role in uniting the provinces that formed Canada.

Originally celebrated on Queen Victoria's birthday, May 24th, the date was shifted to a Monday in 1952 to create a long weekend for Canadians. Since 1953, the reigning monarch's official birthday has also been observed on Victoria Day in Canada.

A Historical Peek, From Queen Victoria to the Reigning Monarch

Canada's celebration of the Sovereign's birthday boasts a rich history that intertwines with the country's development. It all began in 1845, during the reign of Queen Victoria, a symbol of unity for the young Dominion of Canada. The Legislature of the Province of Canada declared her birthday, May 24th, a holiday.

Following Confederation, the tradition continued, with Queen Victoria's birthday celebrated annually on May 24th, except for Sundays when celebrations shifted to May 25th. After passing in 1901, the day became known as Victoria Day, a legal holiday commemorating her reign.

Continuation of this Celebration

The focus on the British monarchy has evolved. However, the celebration continued. Interestingly, during King Edward VII's reign (1901-1910), his birthday wasn't celebrated on its actual date (November 9th) but on Victoria Day. This practice echoed a British tradition of celebrating the reigning monarch's birthday on their predecessor's birth anniversary.

The tradition continued with subsequent monarchs, though with variations. King George V's birthday was observed on the actual date (June 3rd), while King Edward VIII's (reigning from January to December 1936) was celebrated on his birthday (June 23rd). King George VI's birthday, falling on December 14th, was celebrated in Canada on a Thursday in early June, aligning with the United Kingdom's celebrations.

The year 1952 marked a turning point. With Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne, her birthday was initially observed in June, while Canada continued to celebrate Victoria Day. However, an amendment that same year established Victoria Day on the Monday preceding May 25th, a tradition that persists today.

From 1953 to 1956, Queen Elizabeth II's birthday was celebrated in Canada on Victoria Day through a proclamation by the governor-general. Finally, in 1957, Victoria Day was permanently designated as the day to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's birthday in Canada.

Victoria Day as of 2023

The long reign of Queen Elizabeth II solidified the link between Victoria Day and the Sovereign's birthday in Canadian tradition. In May 2023, a proclamation solidified a uniquely Canadian tradition. While issued during King Charles III's reign, the proclamation didn't designate Victoria Day solely for his birthday. Instead, it shrewdly referred to the "Sovereign's birthday," ensuring the practice would extend to all future Canadian monarchs. This proclamation formalized what had become customary, solidifying Victoria Day as the permanent date to celebrate the reigning monarch's birthday in Canada.

Victoria Day Traditions Across Canada

Canadian Victoria Day Traditions | Celebrate Victoria Day in Canada

As a public holiday in Canada, Victoria Day celebrations are a vibrant treasure from regional traditions, personal preferences, and a shared sense of community. Here's a closer look at some popular ways Canadians celebrate this long weekend.

Parades and Solemn Ceremonies

A ceremonial salute is discharged at noon to mark the Sovereign's official birthday, observed in Canada on the Monday just before May 25th. Designated stations for this commemoration include:

Cities and towns across Canada come alive with colorful parades. Marching bands fill the air with music, floats showcase local businesses and organizations, and veterans proudly march in recognition of their service. Official ceremonies, often held at war memorials, pay solemn tribute to fallen soldiers with wreath-laying and moments of silence.

Barbecues and Backyard Bliss

The sizzle of burgers and hot dogs on the grill is a quintessential sound of Victoria Day. Backyards and parks transform into social hubs, filled with families and friends enjoying delicious food, refreshing drinks, and lively conversation. Classic summer salads, potato salad, and baked beans often complete the feast while children chase each other on lawns transformed into temporary playgrounds.

Cottage Country Comes Alive

With the promise of summer in the air, Canadians flock to their cottages and cabins. These cherished havens on lakes and oceans become the stage for relaxation, reconnection with nature, and creating lasting memories. Fishing trips, lazy afternoons on docks, and exhilarating boat rides are popular pastimes in cottage country, making Victoria Day the unofficial kick-off to the summer cottage season.

Spring Cleaning Blitz and Garden Awakenings

As the winter chill loosens its grip, Victoria Day often sparks a surge of home improvement energy. Canadians might embark on a spring cleaning blitz, purging their homes of winter clutter and preparing for the entertaining season. Gardens also awaken from their slumber. Seedlings are planted, flower beds are prepped, and patios are spruced up, transforming outdoor spaces into welcoming havens for summer gatherings.

Sporting Spectacles and Outdoor Adventures

Baseball takes center stage for many Canadians on Victoria Day. Minor league games, brimming with local talent and community spirit, are a popular draw. Beyond baseball diamonds, Canadians embrace the changing season with various outdoor activities. Hiking trails beckon with the promise of scenic vistas, cyclists hit the roads in colorful packs, and families take advantage of parks and beaches for picnics, frisbee games, or simply soaking up the sunshine.

Victoria Day traditions, though diverse, share a common thread – the celebration of community, the embrace of warmer weather, and the unofficial start of summer. So, whether you're enjoying a lively parade, a backyard feast with loved ones, or a peaceful escape to nature, Victoria Day offers a unique opportunity to celebrate what it means to be Canadian.

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Food for Victoria Day

Victoria Day weekend is all about kicking back, relaxing, and enjoying the company of loved ones. And what better way to do that than with a delicious spread of food? Here are some ideas to inspire your Victoria Day menu, from classic crowd-pleasers to Canadian-inspired specialties.


The classic Canadian combo of ketchup, mustard, shredded cheddar, and pea meal bacon is a delightful twist on the traditional burger. Pea meal bacon, or Canadian bacon, is a lean, double-smoked pork loin cured in a peameal solution (a brine with pickling spices). Its unique salty and smoky flavor adds a delightful depth to the burger.

Grilled Mains

Maple Dijon Glaze for grilled salmon is where Canada truly shines. Maple syrup, a quintessential Canadian ingredient, adds a touch of sweetness that perfectly complements the savory Dijon mustard. This glaze is a delicious and easy way to incorporate a Canadian staple into your Victoria Day feast.

Salads that Sing

Salads are a must-have for any barbecue. Opt for a classic potato salad with a twist, like adding roasted red peppers or dill pickles, or create a refreshing coleslaw with a light vinaigrette dressing. Don't forget a vibrant summer salad with seasonal fruits like strawberries, blueberries, or watermelon.


This national treasure needs no introduction! Poutine, originating in Quebec, is a dish of French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. The gravy is traditionally made with chicken or beef stock, and the cheese curds, a fresh cheese cut into small cubes, add a delightful squeaky texture. You can find variations across Canada, but the core elements – fries, gravy, and cheese curds – remain true to its Canadian identity.

Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwiches

Montreal-style smoked meat is a staple in Quebec cuisine. Made from cured beef brisket smoked over hardwood, it boasts a unique smoky flavor and a distinct pink color. Montreal smoked meat sandwiches are traditionally served on rye bread with mustard and pickles, creating a perfect balance of savory and tangy flavors.

Maple Pecan Pie

This classic dessert gets a Canadian boost with maple syrup. Canada is one of the world's largest producers of maple syrup, and incorporating it into a dessert is a delicious way to celebrate this national treasure. The rich sweetness of maple syrup perfectly complements the pecans in this pie, creating a truly Canadian treat.

These are just a few examples of how to incorporate Canadian flavors into your Victoria Day menu. With a little creativity, you can explore other regional specialties and ingredients to create a delicious and unique celebration of Canadian cuisine.

Celebrating Victoria Day as a Newcomer to Canada

Your First Victoria Day in Canada | Celebrate Victoria Day in Canada

If you're a newcomer to Canada, Victoria Day offers a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture and kick off the summer season. Here are some ideas to make the most of your first Victoria Day

Embrace the Outdoors

Victoria Day weekend coincides with beautiful spring weather in most parts of Canada. Head to a local park for a picnic, take a refreshing hike or rent a kayak and explore a nearby lake. Many communities host outdoor events and festivals during the weekend, so check your local listings for options.

Barbecues, Potlucks and Bonfires

A quintessential Canadian tradition is the backyard barbecue or potluck. Gather with friends and family, fire up the grill, and enjoy classic comfort food. As evening approaches, cozy around a bonfire and share stories under the starry sky. It's a great way to experience the festive atmosphere and meet people.

Explore Local History

Victoria Day holds historical significance in Canada. Many museums and historical sites offer special programming or extended hours during the long weekend. Learn about Queen Victoria's reign or delve deeper into Canadian history - a great way to deepen your understanding of your new home.

Festival Fun

Victoria Day weekend often coincides with local festivals celebrating everything from music and art to food and cultural traditions. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, sample delicious treats, and enjoy live entertainment.

Relax and Recharge

The long weekend is a perfect opportunity to unwind and recharge. Catch up on reading, spend quality time with loved ones, or simply relax in your backyard and soak up the sunshine.

Volunteer at a Community Event

Victoria Day weekend is often bustling with local events. Volunteer your time at a community barbecue, a charity run, or a cultural festival. It's a rewarding way to give back, meet new people, and experience Canadian culture firsthand.

Strike Up Conversations

Canadians are known for their friendliness and welcoming nature. Don't be shy! Strike up conversations with people around you at a picnic, during a hike, or while waiting in line for fireworks. You might be surprised at the interesting people you meet and the things you learn about Canada and its traditions.

Tips for Planning Your Canada Day

Here are some tips to make the most of your Victoria Day long weekend:

  • Book your accommodations in advance if you plan to travel for Canada Day. Hotels and other lodgings tend to fill up quickly.
  • Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Canada Day is typically a summer holiday, but the weather can vary depending on location.
  • Be prepared for crowds at popular events and attractions.
  • Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat if you spend time outdoors.
  • Pack a picnic lunch or snacks if you plan to be out all day.
  • Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Don't forget your camera! You'll want to capture all the memories of your Canada Day celebration.
  • Be respectful of others and clean up after yourself.


Is Everything Closed on Victoria Day in Canada?

Most government offices, banks, schools, and libraries are closed on Victoria Day. Many businesses may have reduced hours or be closed altogether. Although some might have adjusted hours, shopping malls, restaurants, and bars often remain open. It's always best to check with businesses for their holiday hours.

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