Victoria Secrets

One of the things that makes you feel a long way from home when you move to a foreign country is that you have no idea when the long weekends fall. We get a pretty good deal here in British Columbia – we get more or less one statutory holiday per month between Easter and New Year, and as of next year we get one in February too to break up the loooooong, dark, cold, rainy stretch between New Year and Easter – but it took a couple of years of relying on labmates asking me “so, are you doing anything for the long weekend?” to really get a feel for when they all are.

I arrived here in February 2002, so the first unfamiliar question of this kind concerned what I was doing for Victoria Day. (I know what and when Easter is, so that hadn’t been a problem. Victoria Day falls on the last Monday before May 25th – i.e. today! \o/) I said I hadn’t worked that out yet, and then asked whether this is a federal or a provincial holiday. Upon learning that it’s a federal holiday, I asked if it’s called Edmonton Day in Alberta and Regina Day in Saskatchewan and so on.

I got a very weird look.

As it turns out, Victoria Day is not a BC holiday that celebrates our provincial capital city, but rather a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Everyone (quite naturally) assumed that their new British labmate would know such a thing, and were most perplexed when I explained that we don’t celebrate the holiday in the UK. The history is quite convoluted: the day’s been known by various names and held on various dates across the Commonwealth, and now also marks the official Canadian birthday of the ruling monarch. I have to say that it really is a bit weird that it’s celebrated in Canada but not Britain; regardless of the holiday’s origin and name, however, it’s lovely to have a three day weekend – especially because grant deadlines on January 9th and April 10th meant that I worked through the last two. Being the unofficial start of summer it’s naturally pouring down rain (see also: last night’s alleged partial eclipse. All we saw was a dark sky getting slightly darker then slightly lighter again), but I’ve enjoyed catching up on some reading – I finished A Dance With Dragons, read The Hunger Games from start to finish, promptly ordered the next two books from Amazon, then started The Golden Compass. WIN!

I also enjoyed the recent revelation that I’m not the only person to get confused about such things:

  • At a meeting about a big grant competition last month, a born and bred Vancouverite said “the guys at [funding agency] suggested that I talk to Victoria. Apparently everyone is. Does anyone know her email address, or at least her last name?” I tried very hard not to laugh when this person was told “Um, I’m pretty sure they meant Victoria as in the provincial government…”
  • A Canadian acquaintance who lives in San Francisco told me that when he mentioned to an American friend that he was heading home to see his family for “The May long Weekend” (this, or just May Long, being Victoria Day’s other name), the friend replied “Man, it’s so great that Canada celebrates all these multicultural holidays!” They’d assumed that “Mae Luong” was a Southeast Asian celebration…

Oh well. Happy birthday, Vicky and Lizzy, and I hope everyone’s having a lovely day.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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8 Responses to Victoria Secrets

  1. Bob O'H says:

    As it turns out, Victoria Day is not a BC holiday that celebrates our provincial capital city, but rather a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday.

    I hope you didn’t tell them she’s been dead 111 years. Imagine the stress it would cause.

    BTW, in case you haven’t heard, Tony Blair isn’t prime minister any more, and the premier league we t to Manchester again.

  2. Nina says:

    Oh my, I know. NZ celebrates “the queen’s birthday” too. But always on a Monday, because otherwise what is the fun of a dead queen’s birthday.
    My Spanish colleague was equally confused when me and a German colleague tried to explain 2 long weekends to her. A few weeks back was ANZAC day, which is something like memorial day for Aussie and NZ. There is also an ANZAC Biscuit (which the girls used to sent to the boys at the front). So My German colleague said “You know, ANZAC, like the biscuit”. To which the Spanish lady answered “A holiday for a cookie, and one for a queen that is not there anymore and not on her real birthday either. It’s fine by me, but I don’t understand”.

  3. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Bob, are Newcastle still shite, or are we unexpectedly being quite awesome this season?

    (as if I didn’t know. My Dad mentions it at least twice per phone call / email).

    Nina, you’d think a Spanish person would be used to silly monarchy-related customs!

    • Bob O'H says:

      Oh, they’re in that state when they’ve just been doing really well, and they’re getting everyone’s hopes up, so they’re going to crash and be awful next season.

  4. Michelle says:

    In Ontario, Victoria Day long weekend Is the weekend that signifies people can go back outside again, open up their cottages for the summer, plant their gardens, and barbecue. Hence it is colloquially known as ‘May 2-4’ weekend. As in case of beer. as in time to start partying and drinking around a bonfire whilst Lynard Skinard’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ blares out from the pickup truck’s sound system.

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