One hundred and forty-five years ago, the self-governing nation of Canada came into existence. It was established on 1 July 1867 by The British North America Act, 1867 (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867). A year later, on 20 June 1868, Lord Monck, the Governor General, signed a proclamation calling upon all citizens of Canada to celebrate their first anniversary on 1 July. It took another eleven years for the holiday to be established by statute, and in 1879, the holiday became known as Dominion Day.
Now the United States had been celebrating their Independence Day for one hundred and three years by then and Canada found out that all the fireworks stores were sold out because the Americans were hoarding! In a daring late-night raid on the fireworks warehouses in Buffalo, just south of the border, fifteen wagons of firecrackers, rockets and sparklers were given their ‘Independence’ and were taken back to Toronto for the fireworks shows. Feeling a bit guilty, the then Governor General, Lord Lorne, the son-in-law of Queen Victoria, sent a wagon of Molson to Buffalo on 4 July.
When U.S. President Rutherford Hayes was informed of this, he ordered a wagon of Budweiser be sent as a gift from the people of the United States. Lord Lorne, good sport that he was, graciously accepted the gift in the spirit in which it was given, and, when the beer was safely delivered and the wagons were back in the United States, he ordered the beer be used to feed the livestock. “That swill isn’t fit for human consumption,” he was quoted as saying. In succeeding years, the Canadians were careful to obtain their fireworks long in advance of the celebration.
Although Canada was self-governing, it still used the Royal Union Flag as its standard. The red, white and red triband flag that we know so well wasn’t adopted until 15 February 1965. But even after the new flag was adopted, 1 July was still known as Dominion Day. It wasn’t until 27 October 1982 that the name of the Dominion Day holiday was changed to Canada Day.
As the birthday of the country, celebrations for Canada Day usually include outdoor public events, such as parades, carnivals, festivals, barbecues, air and maritime shows, fireworks, and free musical concerts, as well as citizenship ceremonies for new citizens. In 2012, Canada Day is on a Sunday, so the official holiday will be on Monday, 2 July. If you’re ever in Canada on 1 July, celebrate with your Canadian hosts and have a Molson… and feed the Budweiser to the pigs.