Here’s The Skinny On Canada Day

And we should all be ashamed we don’t already know this.

To many of us from the United States, what we know about The Great White North was learned from tales of Sgt. Preston, his faithful horse Rex, and his really smart dog Yukon King. We just don’t know anything about the reality of the country. Canada Day is July 1, and it’s a federal holiday to mark the anniversary of the date that Canada became a self-governing country. July 1 is a statutory holiday in Canada unless it falls on a Sunday; then it moves to July 2. All provincial governments observe this day. Many organizations, businesses and stores are closed. Post offices are closed.

On July 1, 1867, Canada became a self-governing dominion of Great Britain and a federation of four provinces: Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Ontario; and Quebec. The anniversary of this date was called Dominion Day until 1982. Since 1983, July 1 has been officially known as Canada Day. Canada’s boundaries have been extended since 1867, and the country now consists of 10 provinces and three territories.

On June 20, 1868, Canada’s Governor General proclaimed that Canadians should celebrate the anniversary of the confederation and July 1 became a statutory holiday, known as Dominion Day, in 1879. However, no official celebrations were held until the 50th anniversary in 1917 and the 60th anniversary in 1927. After World War II, Dominion Day was celebrated more frequently and more events were organized by the national government. After the 100th birthday of the confederation in 1967, Dominion Day events became more widespread and July 1 became popularly known as Canada Day. The date was officially known as Canada Day from 1983 onwards.

Canadians show off their pride in their heritage on Canada Day. Municipal governments organize a range of events, often outdoors. These include pancake breakfasts, parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals, firework displays and citizenship ceremonies for new Canadians. The celebrations often have a patriotic mood. Canada’s national flag is widely displayed and a lot of people paint their faces red and white, which are Canada’s national colors. The celebrations in Ottawa, which is Canada’s capital city, are particularly exuberant.

In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, July 1 is also Memorial Day. This commemorates the heavy loss of life in the Newfoundland Regiment on the first day of the Battle of the Somme during World War I. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the morning of July 1 is usually somber. Flags are flown at half-mast and memorial services are held at cenotaphs (war memorials). In the afternoon, Canada Day celebrations in the province are similar to those in the rest of the country.

Just to show there are no hard feelings, since 2006 Canada Day celebrations have also been held at London’s Trafalgar Square in the United Kingdom.

The guy who played Sgt. Preston of the Yukon was from Minnesota. Sigh. No word on what nationality Rex and Yukon King were.