It’s a holiday weekend! So what are you doing with your Friday off?
You don’t get Friday off? Of course you don’t, you’re probably in America where you celebrate Independence Day on Monday, July 4. Here in Canada, the holiday is on July 1, this year on Friday: Canada Day.
Canada Day is a federal holiday, an opportunity for Canadians to celebrate all things Canada. Most folks chose to fly the country’s flag, have a picnic, see a free concert and/or watch some fireworks. (Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?)
But as I did some research, I discovered that there are actually some pretty big historical differences between Canada Day and Independence Day. First off, it’s only been called Canada Day since 1982, which was the year that Canada gained full independence from the UK. Before that, it was called Dominion Day, which was meant to commemorate the day in 1867, when three British colonies were joined together as one nation within the British Empire.
While it was an official holiday, it was not dominant on the Canadian calendar until the 20th century, because up to then, most Canadians considered themselves British and just weren’t too interested in specifically Canadian patriotism. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that Dominion Day (now Canada Day) became a more popular holiday to average Canadians.
Even now there is a bit of (somewhat typically) Canadian controversy around the day. In Quebec, some folks feel like Canada Day overshadows Quebec’s National Holiday on June 24, which causes some friction. Sacrebleu!
Compare this to the history of Independence Day in the States. While July 2, 1776, was the day that the Continental Congress voted for US independence from the British, July 4, the date on which the Declaration of Independence was signed, has been widely celebrated across the land since 1777. John Adams even predicted that July 2 would “be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” He was only off by 2 days, but he wasn’t wrong about how Americans would celebrate the birth of their independence.
And, that’s what I was raised believing July 4th was all about: remembering that our forefathers did something incredible, defying the most powerful country in the world for our ideals and freedom, and fighting and sacrificing for it to happen. Don’t the fireworks just represent the “rockets red glare” and the “bombs bursting in air” that haven’t yet brought down our red, white and blue?
So I will raise my glass to Canada on Canada Day, for it is a good country of good, kind people. But on July 4th, I will remember what it means to be American.