There are references to civic holidays dating back to the mid 1850s when various cities in Upper Canada (now Ontario) began to have a public holiday in August (eg, London, 1856; Hamilton, 1862) or at the close of summer (eg, Toronto, 1861 and the town of Guelph, 1862). The date of the holiday varied year by year and was proclaimed by the mayor. Shops were closed and the day was spent with picnics and railway and steamer excursions. The idea spread quickly, even into neighbouring Manitoba; Winnipeg had its first public holiday in 1874. The civic holiday eventually solidified on the first Monday of August.
The mid-summer holiday is a statutory PROVINCIAL OR TERRITORIAL HOLIDAY in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. The first 3 listed have their provincial birthday parties on the day. In Northwest Territories and Nunavut it is a holiday for citizens. It is not a statutory holiday in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta but is commonly observed by all levels of government, financial institutions and some businesses. Some municipalities in Nova Scotia use the civic holiday for natal celebrations (eg, HALIFAX, which now has combined celebrations with DARTMOUTH; and ANNAPOLIS ROYAL) celebrating the founding of their respective municipalities. Some municipalities in Ontario use the civic holiday to celebrate a historical figure important in the founding of their communities. Alberta uses the day to celebrate the province's cultural diversity.
Some municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador have an additional summer holiday other than Canada Day but it does not necessarily fall on the first Sunday of August. For example, the first Wednesday of August is Regatta Day, the day of the ROYAL ST JOHN'S REGATTA. A statutory holiday under provincial legislation, the civic holiday is subject to weather conditions. If the weather is not suitable to hold the regatta, the decision of the city's public holiday is postponed to the following day. The town of HARBOUR GRACE has a similar public holiday in late July for its regatta. Other municipalities in the province are able to select the date of their annual civic holiday any time throughout the year. Yukon and Quebec have other statutory holidays, Yukon's DISCOVERY DAY (third Monday in August) and LA FÊTE NATIONALE DU QUÉBEC (June 24) and so do not recognize the holiday. Prince Edward Island has no additional summer holiday but federal government employees in that province get the first Monday of August off as do federal employees in the other provinces and territories except for those in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Author GAIL KUDELIK
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Symbols of Canada
An illustrated guide to national and provincial symbols of Canada, our national anthem, national and provincial holidays, and more. Click on "Historical Flags of Canada" and then "Posters of Historical Flags of Canada" for additional images. From the Canadian Heritage website.
Provincial and Territorial Holidays
Scroll down the page to view a list of provincial and territorial holidays in Canada from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
Gold Cup Parade
The website for Charlottetown's "Gold Cup Parade," Atlantic Canada's largest parade and a feature event of the Old Home Week Festival.
Old Home Week
The website for Old Home Week on Prince Edward Island. Features modern fun and attractions combined with agricultural and family farm-based customs of years past.
Natal Day Festival
Your online guide to Natal Day, the annual birthday celebration of the communities of Halifax and Dartmouth.