From the desk of Ann ten Cate, Reference Archivist at the Royal B.C. Museum
The Monday on or just before May 24th is a federal statutory holiday in most of Canada – and a date that usually marks the unofficial beginning of summer for many of us. It’s a time to plant a garden, open up the cottage – or celebrate the Queen’s birthday with a parade, fireworks, regatta, or rodeo. How you celebrate all depends on which part of the country you are in.
The day is called Victoria Day because it was originally designated in 1845 to mark the birthday of the reigning Queen – Victoria. After her death in 1901, it was officially re-designated as Empire Day throughout the Commonwealth - but the name Victoria Day is still used in most parts of Canada.
The Royal BC Museum is located in the City of Victoria, also named after the former monarch, and, not surprisingly, Victorians have always celebrated the Queen’s birthday with gusto. One of the biggest parades in the country occurs here on the Monday of the long weekend, with marching bands from all over the region.
The B.C. Archives holds dozens of photographs of British Columbians marking the day – here’s a sampling to get you in the mood for your own May long weekend.
Canoe regatta, Victoria's Inner Harbour, May 14, 1904 A-07202
Victoria Day Maypole Dance, Lumby, B.C. [194?] F-09236
Cyclists in the May 24, 1900 parade, Victoria, B.C. H-02434
May Day Parade on Government Street, Victoria, B.C., 1900 G-02019