Saturday, February 17, 2007

Flags Day

Every winter we have a national dialogue about a winter holiday. Some provinces have already instituted one. The thinking is that we need a break in the winter. I question this. Shouldn't winter be an ordeal? It's part of our national identity that we survive winter - the short days, the shoveling, the car window scraping and bundling up and shivering. The finding joy in winter sports. It's our thing. Somehow a February holiday would seem to diminish our sense of self-righteous pride in surviving and thriving in a climate that most of the world is too wimpy for.

But that sentiment notwithstanding, there is a pretty good argument that we should have a break during the bleakest time of the year. The question is when.

We could promote Heritage Day, the third Monday in February, to statutory status. The Heritage Canada Foundation aims to "encourage the preservation and promotion of Canada's nationally significant historic, architectural, natural and scenic heritage." Their web site leans towards architectural heritage. All very very good. But is this the stuff of a holiday? Architecture Appreciation Day? Where's the fun in that?

The Germans have this great holiday on November 11 that kicks off their Carnival. No no no!, I hear you cry. That's Armistice Day, the day Germany conceded defeat in the First World War. In Canada, it's one of the many days that civil servants get a break. It's the day we wear poppies on our lapels and watch veterans on TV. All I can say is, sorry folks: 11-11 at 11:11 is not a time when Germans are worrying about what happened in 1918. It's a time when women take over the country and merriment and silliness abound.

My friend Jane King told me about March 4, aka March Forth, or Day That Is A Complete Sentence Day. March 3 is, of course, Day That Is A Complete Sentence Day Eve. Now that's a holiday. The main problem with March Forth Day is that it would probably have to be celebrated on March 4, and here in Canada we know that holidays must fall on Monday. (That also nixes Pi Day, as wouldn't we look like dummies if we celebrated Pi on 3.13 or 3.15.)

We could choose an approximate time that the sap starts to run in the Maple trees and celebrate that. The problem is that that's the end of March and it's a bit too late. It could bump up against Easter and it doesn't satisfy our February yearning for an extra day to lie in.

Unlike Canada, the US had a wealth of winter holidays to choose from. The traditional winter sale day, Lincoln's Birthday, was eventually lumped into Presidents' Day. Out of their embarrassment of riches they wisely chose Martin Luther King Jr's birthday to take statutory, and settled it as the third Monday of January.

Flag day (February 15, the day in 1965 when the maple leaf first flew) has the advantage of being an existing Canadian holiday (although it's pretty obscure). I have two major problems with it:

- Having a statutory holiday on the day after Valentine's Day will give even more weight to Valentine's Day, and especially to Valentine's Day Night, and continue the movement from a charming personal event to a full-blown stress-inducing Hallmark Occasion. (Seriously. We have to be wary of these. I have a friend whose parents split up when the husband forgot to buy his wife a Mother's Day card. And she wasn't even his mother.)

- Celebrating our flag will continue our movement towards greater nationalism and well, sucks to that.

How about this idea though... We could celebrate Flag Day but settle it as the second Monday in February, thus severing it (most years) from Valentine's Day, and we could rename it Flags Day - the day on which we can all fly whatever flags we like. National flags, nautical flags, semaphore flags, sports pennants, banners, metaphorical flags (as in CSNY's lyric "let your freak flag fly")... now that sounds like fun. And of course it's just an excuse for a lie-in.



Anonymous said...

Isn't every day in March a Complete Sentence Day? =An admonition regarding where in the line you should be whilst marching [although in this case it would be 'fourth' not 'forth'], or, alternatively, what priority you should place on marching, as opposed to, for example, blogging.
Sang Freud

Yappa said...

Too true, Sang Freud! And you could also add all 1st days of months, and possibly 2nd days. As in: "Q:Which month won? A:September won." "Q:Any others? A:January too."