Book examines our national holidays and their deeper significance

By Costa Maragos Posted: March 22, 2017 12:00 p.m.

 Dr. Raymond Blake, head of the Department of History, is co-editor of
Dr. Raymond Blake, head of the Department of History, is co-editor of "Celebrating Canada: Holidays, National Days and the Crafting of Identities," published by U of T Press. Photo by Rae Graham - U of R Photography

No doubt, Canada Day 2017 promises to be this country’s biggest birthday bash in decades as the country marks the sesquicentennial of Confederation.

But what does it really mean to celebrate Canada Day (Dominion Day to traditionalists) or other national or provincial holidays – including Victoria Day, Labour Day, and Thanksgiving Day – for that matter?

There’s a lot more to these special days than meets the eye.

Dr. Matthew Hayday
Dr. Matthew Hayday is associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Guelph.
The book Celebrating Canada: Holidays, National Days and the Crafting of Identities (U of T Press) reflects on the history and evolution of our holidays and annual celebrations.

Delve into this work and you quickly see that not all holidays are created equally or universally embraced.

Celebrating Canada is edited by Dr. Raymond Blake, professor and head of the U of R’s department of history and Dr. Matthew Hayday, associate professor in the department of history at the University of Guelph.

The book is being launched Friday, March 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the Administration – Humanities Building (AH 348). The event includes a lecture from professor Hayday.  

“With the 150th anniversary of Confederation being observed in 2017, the time seemed right for such an evaluation of how Canadians have defined and celebrated themselves,” observe Blake and Hayday in their introduction.

The editors have a lot of insightful material to deal with, which includes contributions from Dr. Michael Poplyansky, lecturer at La Cité universitaire francophone and Bailey Antonishyn, who earned her MA in history at the U of R.
Celebrating Canada Book

The book emerged from a Celebrating Canada workshop in Ottawa in 2014 where the authors shared their research while examining the “bigger picture of Canada’s cultures of celebration and commemoration.”

A second volume, which will examine major commemorative events like the 1967 Centennial and the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation, will be released later this year.

The essays focus on ways that Canadians throughout history have observed their national days and other significant holidays.

Over the years, holidays have evolved and “have played major roles throughout Canada’s history to forge, foster, and modify its identities.”

The authors look at such holidays as Dominion Day (renamed Canada Day in 1982), Victoria Day, Quebec’s Fête Nationale, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day and many others.

All these days have one thing in common in that they have been subject to intense debates over our history.

Each holiday has its supporters and detractors.

“Holidays are celebrated and observed within broader political cultures and complex public policy frameworks, and we can learn much about the politics of national identity from how they are, or are not, celebrated.”

Something to ponder this July 1st – a holiday to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.   
Event:   Lecture and Book Launch
Date:    Friday, March 24, 2017
Time:    3:30 p.m.
Venue:  Administration Humanities Building – Room AH 348
Event is open to the public.

The book was published thanks to a grant from the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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