As a Canadian living the States, the end of May has always been a bit confusing for me. So, in an effort to figure this out once and for all, let’s do a little more digging on this national holiday. Pun intended.

Up in Canada, we celebrate Victoria Day weekend almost the same weekend as Memorial Day down in the States. Sometimes they fall on the same weekend, other times they are one after the other. While both holidays announce the beginning of the summer season, the two holidays couldn’t be further apart in their meaning yet both are celebrated with barbecues and furniture sales.

Is there any way we can relate the two ways, still honor our fallen veterans, and still celebrate? Yes. And a retired Navy pilot helps us do so…

From the Archives: This miniature garden was made in 2013 for a series, “A Year in the Miniature Garden.” This is the Memorial Day Mini Garden. The shrub on the left is the Blue Moon Cypress. To the right of that is the Compressa Juniper.

So, What is Victoria Day?

Victoria Day is a federal Canadian holiday that was at first a celebration for Queen Victoria’s birthday but has become the official birthday of Canada’s sovereign, currently Queen Elizabeth II. And the fact that this monarch was born on April 21st just adds to the confusion. I personally like waiting until the weather is good to do any kind of celebrating, so maybe that’s why we wait until May to celebrate our current Queen? :o)

But all-in-all, Victoria Day weekend is a party weekend for us north of the northern border. It’s a happy time! It’s “May two-four” weekend! (A “two-four” – pronounced ‘two-fer’ – is nickname for a case of 24 beers that technically should last for the three day weekend.)

From the Archives: This miniature garden was made in 2013 for a series, “A Year in the Miniature Garden.” This is the Victoria Day Mini Garden. The grass on the far left is Dwarf Lily Turf. Counterclockwise from that is the Woolly Thyme, Hens and Chick, more Woolly Thyme, and Capo Blanco Sedum on the far right and between the trees.

So, when I moved to the US in 1998, I caught myself saying, “Happy Memorial Day weekend!” only to find out it was a very somber time commemorating the men and women who have fallen in battle, or have died of wounds sustained in battle. In other words, the weekend is to honor their ultimate sacrifice.

This doesn’t sound like much reason to celebrate. But, after honoring their memory, it seems the only way to repay the gift that the fallen has given us is to acknowledge the reason for their doing so, and that would be for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to quote the Declaration of Independence.

Ask a Veteran!

But, what do I know? I’m a Canadian immigrant enjoying this American life. So here is retired Navy pilot, Ken Harbaugh on how to celebrate the first long weekend of the summer in the USA, from an article he wrote in the Observer in 2015 – linked below.

From the Archives: A rare 1/6 scale miniature garden scene to honor Memorial Day. A Top Point White Cedar in the middle with the White Pygmy Cypress on both sides. Irish moss in the front.

“This Memorial Day, I will head to the ocean as the sun is coming up. I will spend some time alone, and think about those who never made it back. Then I will return to my wife and kids and be grateful for my life. I will fire up the grill and invite friends over. And I will wish each of them a Happy Memorial Day, knowing full well that this day and the joy it brings are gifts I can never repay. Except, perhaps, by living a life full of happiness as my fallen friends would have wanted.”

– Ken Harbaugh, former Navy pilot. “It’s Perfectly OK to Say ‘Happy Memorial Day'”

Thank you, Ken, for helping me sort this out.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all our American friends.

Happy Victoria Day weekend to all our Canadian friends.

Let the summer begin!

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