Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Canadian Holiday and Ancient History

Back in Canada yesterday--Monday--was the holiday when people plant because it is supposed to mark the end of frosts in most of hardiness Zone 5. This means that garden centres will be overflowing with people walking around with lists in hand, picking the bedding plants for their annual beds, being seduced by promises of flowering bushes later in the season, and hauling sacks of compost and manure from car to garden.

It was a holiday all over Canada, although it has different names, depending on where you live. May 24 was the birthday of Queen Victoria, and the date became a holiday to celebrate the monarch. Since her death in the early 20th century, the celebration ha gone through several transmutations, with the Monday nearest that date becoming the official holiday. For a while the holiday was called the Fête de Dollard in Quebec, commemorating a battle between early settlers and the Native Canadians who weren’t terribly pleased to have others claim their land. Recently the unfairness of linking a holiday with this kind of colonial exploitation caused a name change: it’s now the Fête des Patriotes. I’m all for this change because the Patriotes were the French ad English speakers who led the nearest thing to a revolution Canada ever had, the Rebellions of 1837-39.

But since we are in France all that seems very far away: we were at Chartres yesterday where construction on churches began long before any Europeans but the Scandanavians were anywhere near Canada. Now to go explore some more where the Parisii had a town before Julius Caesar came conquering in the first century BCE...

1 comment:

Martin Langeland said...

In the early days of the Industrial revolution workers were paid weekly at closing on Saturday for a Sunday holiday. Gin was cheap. The consanguinity of these two facts led to many absences on Monday as people recovered. These were called orissions to St. Monday.
Now the gardeners suffer from the onset of back pain and too much sun from that first ecstatic weekend in Spring-almost-Summer.
What Saint might be appropriate to take the credit for the resulting absences?