Can we Come Up with a Better Name for it?

In Canada this is the Victoria Day weekend. Although often referred to as “The 24th of May” or “May two-four” (the double entendre being a tip of the hat to the copious quantiles of two-dozen cases of beer that somehow get used up over the weekend) it is instead set as the weekend which has the last Monday before the 24th. The timing can be a bit awkward. This year, for example, the 24th is NEXT Sunday! It’s a federal government holiday and is a provincial/territorial holiday in most cases; not all. In one jurisdictions (not mine) it’s also a “shops closing” day as well, so just about all hands except the poor souls who work in health care, law enforcement and such can get some well-earned time off.

For those who enjoy the outdoors it’s generally the time when people get out the RV’s or officially open up the cottages if they’re lucky (or indebted) enough to have one. For the younger people it’s also often a time when they head out to a park or a field for a spot of tenting.

Now, before this goes any further, for the non NL readers you need to know this: for most of the year outdoors in this province is enough to freeze your arse off. As the famous NL satirist Ray Guy once said, “summers are short here. Last year it fell on a Wednesday.” While, this time around, it’s not too bad (18 C, yesterday, 16 C Sunday and maybe 12 C Monday if our run of luck continues), it’s not at all unusual to get what most of you would term “winter weather” over the weekend. Just about all of us can recount a—true—story from our youth of waking up in a tent on Sunday morning only to discover that there’d been a fall of snow overnight. Think about it: crowded into a cheap tent, covered with an equally cheap sleeping bag (maybe), hung over, and frigging snow everywhere. Fun eh? Give ‘er!

Today, though, perched in a chair in the back yard, pretending it’s warm enough to just wear the t-shirt I have on and looking out over the  non-blooming-anything in the garden (except for those @$%&*!# dandelions—yes, that will probably take over everything before long; hey’re well on the way. No grass yet, though.) it does occur to me that the name we have stuck on this holiday weekend needs to change.

It’s gotten to the point of stupidity, IMHO.

The “Victoria” we are referring to is Queen Victoria, head of the British Monarchy at the time that Canada became officially a country, and in the minds of some, thus, the “Mother of Confederation.”

Give me a break! Yes, it’s important to observe some waypoints along our history but perhaps it’s time to face a few pertinent facts. First, All of us alive now in the country were born after Confederation and as such were never British Citizens (except, obviously, those who moved here). While we certainly value Britain as an ally, a trading partner and an awesome place to visit we feel no sense of duty whatsoever to the British Monarch.

Second, speaking of which, most of us have been taught that “the crown” in reality is now, in Canada, a snobbish “I know more than you do” way of referring to “the people.” The notion of “the crown” is a useful one since it lets us remind Harper and others like them that we don’t serve them (I’m not sure he gets that though), but, rather, that he serves the crown—us, that is. Fine. But here’s the thing: we’re not all that stunned and we don’t need a figurehead (the monarchy) to help us understand that. News flash—we are capable of abstract concepts. We understand the “the crown is the people” thing and for those that don’t get it, having a Governor General as a figurehead for the crown is enough. We don’t have to pretend that he or she is “the queen’s representative” and that, perhaps, it’s her that is in charge. Do we? By extension, then, why do we have to keep honouring someone, long gone, who probably could not have given a royal crap about the place anyway? Ever hear the “fox hat” joke? I’ll tell you someday.

Finally, though, the whole “Queen Victoria is the Mother of Confederation” bit just rubs me the wrong way. The notion of empire, of the implicit superiority of while people (British ones in particular) over all others, especially the aboriginals who were here for thousands of years before the “European Invasion” (and who, by the way, have managed to still remain—fancy that) just seems so offensive. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only way it could have been worse is if the monarchists who proposed the name had found some way to pretend she was male. I’m surprised they didn’t at least try.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not to suggest that we should simply drop the holiday. Absolutely not! In fact, if I thought there was any way it could be pitched to the retailers and oil companies who run this place I’d like to see holiday expanded to include non-government workers (as is the case in Prince Edward Island and Alberta—oh, wait, check out the names of the provinces, small wonder, wha?) so that the rest of the serfs who want to enjoy it would not have to dip into their supply of annual leave (or call in sick, eh b’y) in order to join the happy throng.

No, I just want a better name.

I tried hard to come up with one, but the best I could do was this: “drink beer, freeze in a park that has not so much as a blade of green grass yet, eat too much, and hopefully drown a few worms trying to catch a few really tiny trout day ‘cause we’re all REALLY sick of that rotten winter that lingers on and on and just want a break regardless of the awful weather weekend.” Yeah, I know—not quite there yet; needs work.

Help me out, luh. Here are the parameters:

  • No names from “great men” allowed. Cripes, there’s been enough of that, and besides, how dumb is that anyway? This is Canada for the love of Pete (whoops—there I go with the great men again, but you gotta admit the big M’s brother was one helluva hockey player) and we should know by now that pretty much everything we’ve done has been a team effort even though we’ve allowed a few egoistical ones to claim all the credit. After all, in most cases, what they did was push themselves to the front of the line and get to be the ones that were in charge when great things happened (and generally done by those whose names will never so much see their name on a plaque).
  • No names from great women either. Please don’t crucify me for this. I’m not stupid enough to pretend we don’t have ones sufficiently wonderful to deserve it and, yes, I’m well aware that I’m proposing to remove perhaps the only woman’s name from the list. No, I’m not picking on women—didn’t you see the first bullet? Il even go so far as to say that if I had my way we’d remove most of the great men’s names from the holidays and such too. Why? Because there are simply too many great ones for us to take this track. We could take up every day, many times over. Let’s also be aware of the simple fact that time goes on, memories fade and new stars shine. We can’t just leave all the glory to the few lucky enough to be around in the early days of confederation, can we? Oh, and then there’s the issue of replacing one old name with a new one. What a brouhaha that will be every time it comes up!
  • Absolutely not “May Two Four.” We’re not all frat boys.

So, what we need is a name that is symbolic of something that matters. We’ve covered some lasting ones: peace, nationalism, honouring our forces, honouring our workers, and new starts (you figure out which holiday is which there). Perhaps we need to look a little closer and see what’s been left out and come up with something better, a name that represents something else we hold dear.

Now, I don’t claim to have all of the answers but it does occur to me that there’s an almost obvious choice. Let me run a few names/events/organizations by you. Think of what they represent. Maybe we could come up with a good name based on that trait or traits, use it and spend the weekend honouring it while we enjoy the present and look forward to what summer might bring. Here’s a partial list: Calbech is ‘first,’ Confederation Bridge, DART, David Suzuki, Henderson Scores, Land Claim Agreements, Marie-Joseph Angélique, MCP, Michaëlle Jean, Roberta Bondar, Terry Fox, the Charter, Tommy Douglas, Kellie Leitch. There’s loads more. I just wrote the few that came to mind as I wrote this. Perhaps we could agree on an appropriate name for the holiday and celebrate one individual, institution or event each year; something that truly means something.

Who’s with me?


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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12 Responses to Can we Come Up with a Better Name for it?

  1. Johnny says:

    How ’bout……. “Sunrays, Crown” (Get out and enjoy the sun this weekend, people!) 🙂

  2. Mary says:

    “The 24th of may is the queen’s birthday
    If we don’t get a holiday, we’ll all run away”.
    Remember that little rhyme from our childhood?
    I hadn’t thought of the name…just happy to have the day off. I actually think we should keep that one but add a bunch more. I’d vote for a Terry Fox day for sure. There could be a coordinated ” run for the cure” all across our nation. More birthdays please! More long weekends! ( I love how I get a long weekend for mine 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Also think you are right. Definitely should be days honuring First Nations…in Nfld. perhaps a provincial holiday in honor of Shananditi.

  3. elkement says:

    Interesting history! Here, we had a holiday on Thursday, too – accidentally: Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter Sunday.

    Most of Austria’s (large number of: 13) bank holidays are Catholic holidays for historical reasons – but I think most of us are just happy about a day off and can relate to the cultural background as much as you can relate to yours :-).

    Cutting the number of holidays comes up in the political discussion now and then: in May nearly every work week is effectively truncated to three days due to several holidays on Thursday each, plus Whit Monday.

    • Joseph Nebus says:

      I’m, generically, in favor of more holidays. It isn’t like we don’t do enough work as it is, and the prospect of a three- or even two-day workweek is one that makes us all schoolchildren again, and happy.

      • Indeed! Funny though. Once it seemed that we were heading to a period of reduced work days and reduced workweeks. These days those thoughts are all long gone as recessions come and go and the need for more, more profits trumps most thoughts of social well being 🙂

  4. jennypellett says:

    Interesting post Maurice in the light of the history lessons I’ve been supporting this term. Our thirteen year olds are learning about the British Empire (new to our particular curriculum) and were asked if they felt proud to be British. They struggled with the concept of proud, let alone in the context of their country. Old chestnuts were rolled out (winning the World Cup in 1966, for heavens sake), but there was no real satisfactory conclusion. Their next exercise was to have a discussion on whether Australia should rename Australia Day Invasion Day or Anniversary Day. This provoked a much livelier lesson bearing in mind that the previous lesson had covered the British treatment of the Aboriginals.
    I’m not in a position to suggest what would be an appropriate title for your Victoria Day but as I’m not a royalist (yes, they bring in revenue by bolstering our tourist trade but the hoo- ha that went on over the death of Diana – and still goes on is just ridiculous ), losing the Victoria moniker wouldn’t offend me in the slightest.

  5. Tiny says:

    This was a fun post, Maurice! I’m still smiling…and I get it, the name needs to change. How about celebrating a Get Moving Day? Winter simply cannot hold on much longer after this day, so people could be encouraged to get out into the nature. Where grass will grow green, eventually. We have a long weekend here in the US too, Memorial Day on Monday. Our small city will double it’s residents for three days…

    • Thanks! It’s currently 5 C but they tell us we might see 20 on Monday. This cold is mostly the Labrador current which also brings loads of bergs which the tourists all love.

  6. Maurice interesting thoughts, I can’t imagine anything will change soon. But I hope your weather does and you see more sunshine.

  7. Do I get to vote? I’m not British or Canadian. If my vote counts, I’m for “Summer’s-a-comin’ by-gum” day.

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