A Long Weekend in February.
We need a national holiday in February. My favourite February holiday (other than my birthday and Ash Wednesday) is National Chocolate Mint Day on February 19. That day was declared by the United States National Confectioners Association, to honour this hugely popular food pairing.
I always remember a billboard advertising Laura Secord chocolates. It said something like this. “95% of people love chocolate! And you’re wondering what to give for Christmas?” I doubt that Provincial and Federal governments will declare Chocolate Mint Day a holiday, even if most of us love it.
Most parts of Canada celebrate a long weekend in February. It takes place on either the third (or second) Monday and goes by various names. The most common is Family Day, celebrating the importance of families and the contributions of family life to people and their communities. Manitoba has Louis Riel Day. PEI has Islander Day. There is Heritage Day in a couple of parts of the country.
There is no federally established Family Day. This holiday was first observed in Alberta in 1990, followed by Saskatchewan in 2007 and Ontario in 2008. On May 28, 2012, the BC government announced that Family Day would be observed on the second Monday in February each year.
As a new holiday, there are no traditional activities that are associated with the day. Canadians use the long weekend for whatever purpose they like. No one can get away with saying, “We’ve always done [take your pick] on this long weekend. It’s what this weekend is all about.” That strikes me as appropriate, considering that there is such a variety of expressions of family life.
Perhaps individual families can set their own traditions: a skiing trip, a hike, a festival of board games or jigsaw puzzles, skating on a frozen lake, and so on. I’m sure that there are many people who spend their holiday catching up with work or sleep.
Governments in the remaining jurisdictions without February holidays have come under some pressure to harmonize. Ontario’s enactment of Family Day has meant the Canadian financial sector, including the Toronto Stock Exchange, largely shuts down on this date.
In 2008, federal NDP leader Jack Layton proposed that it be made a federal holiday. Not being a federal holiday, federally regulated workplaces (such as the post office) work on Family Day regardless of the day’s status in the respective provinces.
There is an acceptance that we need a winter holiday, especially here in Canada. Whether the holiday is legislated and has a title, we find a reason to celebrate, to take a pause and celebrate what is important to us in mid-winter.
Let’s take time today to give thanks and celebrate the families we have: our birth families, our families of choice, our religious communities, and so on.