Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Patriotism Canadian-style

I've experienced Canada Day (this year being the 141st anniversary of the confederation of four provinces into a new country) in two capital cities now. Well, three, if you count Edmonton, but that was way back when it was still called "Dominion Day" and I have no recollection of it. I don't know how many other communities go all-out on Canada Day, but it certainly seemed more low-key in Victoria. This is our eighth Canada Day in Ottawa where it is a Big Deal, mainly because we live in a capital city that takes its capitals seriously. Ottawa is The Nation's Capital, and there's a lead-up to July 1st, something like Christmas. About three weeks beforehand, Canadian flags appear everywhere: draped from balconies, taped up on windows, plastered to walls and the sides of office buildings.

On the day itself, I'd say one third of the population dresses in red and white. Fellas of all ages sport red tee shirts, anything they can find in the right colour. You see a lot of Coca Cola tees; the Resident Fan Boy hauls out his McGill University top (his dad's alma mater). Those without red or white shirts stick flags in their caps or straw hats. Younger men simply drape a Canadian flag over their shoulders and stride along like Superman (who, incidentally, was created by a Canadian). Women go with white tops/red shorts or red top/white capris. You see many, many cute little summer dresses in red and white prints, or solid shades of scarlet or crimson. Those lacking red in the closet stick flags in their ponytails or wear darker shades of pink.

On our first Canada Day here, I was startled to board an OC Transpo bus (red and white year-round) to be confronted by rows of passengers clad in the same hues. Downtown Ottawa closes the streets leading to Parliament Hill which look like veins and arteries with red and white corpuscles.

Nope, I don't remember Victoria being quite that gung-ho, though things might have changed since the war in Afghanistan. I mainly remember picnics, open-air citizenship courts, and the international Folk-Fest which emphasized food and entertainment from around the world.

Alas for poor Resident Fan Boy who loves to ramble about the Nation's Capital like a carnival-goer soaking up the atmosphere. He spent his first Canada Day in Ottawa nine years ago without us, wandering from the citizenship court to Parliament Hill to see the RCMP musical ride, dreaming of doing this with his family. Once he had hauled us in from the west coast, he discovered that his decidedly Taurean wife and daughters didn't care for standing in the hot sun for hours on end, nor meandering aimlessly in the humidity of the central Canadian summer.

RFB was in for more disappointments in the shape of Remembrance Day, Winterlude, and the Tulip Festival, but let that pass. This Canada Day, he was determined to get us out, and since it was really a lovely day (that is, sunny and not overly hot), we decided not to resist him. We hopped on the bus and watched two gal-pal mums both with red tops and capris with white flip-flops and pearl toe polish standing alongside matching kids in car seats piggy-backed into strollers. One mum was blonde and impeccably groomed, the other plump and elaborately coiffed. Baby of impeccable blond mum appeared to be three months old and kept kicking off her sparkly red-and-white Mary Janes. Elaborately coiffed mum turned to reveal her top was slashed up the back and artfully retied at bottom. (Who was watching the babies while these women dolled themselves up? I had trouble finding time to wash my hair when my daughters were small.) Both became aware they had an audience and crooned lovingly to their babies for our benefit.

We disembarked at Rideau Street filled with red-and-white crowds milling around ramps featuring slammin' skateboards and divin' dirt bikes plus blaring music. Slipped into Lone Star for Tex-Mex (how Canadian!), just beating the ravenous red-and-white crowds descending from the midday ceremonies featuring the Prime Minister and assorted musical acts at Parliament Hill.

Resident Fan Boy, desperate for his Canada Day family excursion, led us to Confederation Park to hear snatches of JazzFest, only to find empty pavilions and a milling red-and-white crowd. So we headed home, through throngs of red-and-white shoppers at the Rideau Mall. Alas, poor Resident Fan Boy....


Jonas Dickinson said...

Dear Sharon,

Know your country is a temple and a celebration.


Persephone said...

♪My country is my cathedral♫ (c'mon everyone, join in!)
♫The no-o-o-rthern sky its dome
They a-a-a-a-all call it Canada!
But I call it ho-o-o-me....♪