If we were to ask any non-Canadian what they know about Heritage Day, we would likely be met with a look of confusion. Truth be told, if we were to ask any Canadian the same question, it is likely that they might only know their province's version of it. Here in Alberta, where it is celebrated in August, it is often simply referred to as “August Long”, and frequently used to camp or travel.
Many provinces celebrate Heritage Day on the third Monday of February. It was originally created in 1973 by the Heritage Canada Foundation1 and was intended to be a national holiday. Due to Parliamentary shenanigans, this national holiday failed to be passed into law, so many of the provinces celebrated however they pleased. For some of them, it meant doing nothing until some time later, when they enacted their own provincial statutes to establish the holiday.
Yukon Territory, on the other hand, was an early adopter. In 1975, Yukon had assumed that Parliament would pass the Bill to establish a National Heritage Day. In response, the territory established their own Heritage Day on the Friday preceding the last Sunday in February. Further, they wrote the holiday into the union contract for territorial employees2. With the new law in place and the contract ratified, the holiday could not be easily removed. Consequently, many non-government employees in the Yukon also now enjoy the holiday.
Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory hosts the week-long “Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous”, which is a festival with something for literally everyone. Based on the names and descriptions alone, our favourites include the Chainsaw Chuck (not to be confused with the Axe Throw later in the day), the Hair Freezing Contest (sponsored by a local hot tub company), and various dogsled-related events, culminating in a Dog Howling Contest.
We love that this holiday and its accompanying festival showcase one of the best things about Canada. As Canadians, we can all relate not only because we like to have fun, but also that we have a habit of poking a little fun at ourselves. The great people of Yukon Territory have done a great job of finding the perfect balance of recognizing and celebrating their unique culture, while having some lighthearted fun.
For those of us unable to make the trip to Whitehorse this weekend, Heritage Yukon invites those of us who use social media to use the hashtag #mycanadais to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of this diverse country that we share.
1 “Heritage Day: Canadian Holiday” in Encyclopaedia Britannica (Encyclopaedia Britannica: 2017) online: <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Heritage-Day-Canadian-holiday>.
2 Gail Kudelik, “Provincial and Territorial Holidays” in Canadian Encyclopedia (Historica Canada: 2015) online: <www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/provincial-and-territorial-holidays>.