The Sovereign's birthday
has been celebrated in Canada since the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). May 24, Queen Victoria's birthday, was declared a holiday by the Legislature of the Province of Canada in 1845. After Confederation, the Queen's birthday was celebrated every year on May 24 unless that date was a Sunday, in which case a proclamation was issued providing for the celebration on May 25.
After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, an Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada establishing a legal holiday on May 24 in each year (or May 25 if May 24 fell on a Sunday) under the name Victoria Day. From 1953 to 1956, the Queen's birthday was celebrated in Canada on Victoria Day, by proclamation of the Governor General, with Her Majesty's approval. In 1957, Victoria Day was permanently appointed as the Queen's birthday in Canada. In the United Kingdom, the Queen's birthday is celebrated in June.
The Royal Union Flag
, commonly known as the "Union Jack" where physical arrangements allow, is flown along with the National Flag at federal buildings, airports, military bases and other federal buildings and establishments within Canada, from sunrise to sunset, to mark this day.
Physical arrangements means the existence of at least two flag poles; the Canadian flag always takes precedence and is never replaced by the Union Jack. Where only one pole exists, no special steps should be taken to erect an additional pole to fly the Union Jack for this special day.
All Canadian federal organizations, such as the post office and banks, close in observance of Victoria Day. The Eastern provinces of PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland/Labrador consider Victoria Day a general, rather than statutory, holiday but government offices and public schools still close. However, for many private sector workers in those provinces, business proceeds as usual. In all cases, it's best to call ahead and confirm holiday hours.
Basically, all federal organizations close for the day, even in provinces that don't consider Victoria Day a statutory holiday. You can expect to find public schools, government offices, post offices, state-owned liquor stores, libraries, and banks throughout the country closed. Many grocery stores and service businesses remain dark in observance as well.
Attractions operating in major tourism destinations throughout the country, such as the CN Tower
, the Vancouver Aquarium, museums, public parks, and historical sites, remain open. Most public transit runs on a holiday schedule, and many retail businesses and restaurants in tourist areas remain open.
Many convenience stores elect to operate at least for limited hours, and some garden centers stay open in response to the widespread cabin fever that prompts Canadians to get out and start working in their gardens.