It’s not called Victoria Day because Canadians all want to go to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island so they can remember what flowers are supposed to look like look like this time of year.
No, we Canadians get a nice spring holiday long weekend on account of we are celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday, who was a long-time major monarch in England who died a while back. Quite a while back. She tipped over 110 years ago, in fact.
Now, thanks to two much-publicized cultural events, however, many people may now inadvertently know about the inventor of the Victorian Era.
If you saw the Academy Award winning movie The King’s Speech (and who didn’t?) King Edward The Former Stutterer was the great grandson of Queen Victoria, and he was also the father of the current Queen Elizabeth.
And you may have noticed that Queen Elizabeth’s grandson William recently got married to the hottie “commoner” Kate, and this makes Queen Victoria Will and Kate’s great, great, great grandma. I think.
All this confusion and complicated lineage that our British friends take so seriously might be one of the reasons there are so many pubs in England.
Be that as it may, we used to call this long holiday weekend The May 24th, no matter what date the weekend actually fell on.
Many of today’s youngsters (those under 40 or so) call the weekend The May Long.
No matter what you call it, it’s good to have a nice holiday that our powerful American neighbours who like to great special holidays for just about everything don’t have. On account of they have never had a president named Victoria who was born on May Long.
For Canadians, this weekend unofficially kicks of the popular season known as Camping and Partying.
Many grateful citizens drag out their home-on-wheels and park in rows in designated areas of improved wilderness where they can sit in lawnchairs for two or three days, rising only to gobble barbecued meat and slurp many adult beverages.
The younger set (those over 18 or so), who wouldn’t be caught dead going camping with their parents, look forward to spending most of the long weekend at the clubs. Many of these party magnets are situated downtown, a half a block from the firehall and across the street from the brand new police station. Coincidence?
But Victoria Day weekend can be a fun and special time even if you don’t club or camp. There are a number of activities to consider when celebrating the long-deceased Queen’s birthday:
1. You could go to a movie. Keep in mind, however, the Movie Frustration Formula, which I totally made up. You find out the rating of the movie from the interweb or a newspaper or magazine (say four stars out of five), and you multiply that with the number of theatres there are in the plex that is showing the movie (say, six screens). Then add 15 minutes to factor in the compulsory Popcorn Points, and the result will be the approximate number of minutes you will have to wait in line to get a ticket and concessions when you go see the movie. (For our example: 4X6=24 + 15 = 39 minutes). Add 15 additional minutes if it’s a holiday weekend. Like this weekend.
2. Don’t feel like investing a small fortune and half the weekend seeing one movie? There’s always TV. You could watch lots of interesting playoff hockey this weekend, or catch up on all those programs you recorded on your TIVO months ago but haven’t had time to check out, or you could rent a DVD from one of the last few movie rental stores that remain open. And to make watching TV a little more interesting, here’s a fun game: For the entire long weekend, the spousal unit or roommate who always controls the television remote has to give it over to the other person. And the former remote control controller has to watch whatever the other person wants to watch. The long weekend will certainly be even longer for one of you.
3. Or what if by some miracle it’s not raining, snowing or blowing gale force winds on May 24th weekend? How about heading out to the yard for some hearty planting action. I have it on good authority (the Better Half) that many people consider it customary to plant gardens and some flowers on this traditional long weekend. This is to make sure the snow has something to fall on some time before July, and in our personal case, to make sure our deranged shih tzu mutt Scamp has a garden full of carrots to dig up and eat no matter what we do to keep him out the little carrot and pea patch.
But a lot of people will be not be holidaying this weekend. They will, by choice or otherwise, be working. With Queen Victoria’s legacy including statutory holiday pay of at least time-and-a-half for every hour worked — or three and a half times your regular wage if you work for the government — it may be worth it to some people to just keep on slaving away.
One way or the other, though, I guess we should all silently thank the old Queen for her birthday. I know I’ve certainly enjoyed many May 24ths over the years. And this year, Victoria would have 192 candles on her cake — as good an excuse as any to have a holiday.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays.