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Niagara Falls
Thursday, February 29, 2024
150th anniversary of the first

I wonder, as we celebrate the 151st anniversary of Confederation, if it will seem a bit anti-climactic after last year's hoopla, similar to how it must have felt as a fledgling country celebrated its first birthday 150 years ago.

That first July 1, 1867, the celebration was reported to have started at midnight, and continued throughout the day. 

It must have been one heck of a party, with church bells ringing, fireworks, huge bonfires, parades, flags and streamers hanging from businesses and homes across Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. There was drinking, dancing — that part must be in our DNA, or maybe it's just that we feel like partying when the sun shines — and a 101-gun salute in Ottawa recognizing this new country of ours.

By the following year, the partying would likely have been a bit subdued in comparison, although the governor general of the day signed a proclamation that requested “all Her Majesty's subjects across Canada” to celebrate July 1. 

More drinking and partying — this time legislated.

In 1879, a federal law made July 1, a statutory holiday recognizing the anniversary of Confederation, later called Dominion Day, and officially renamed Canada Day in 1982, giving Canadians permission to party on in the name of national pride and patriotism. We owe thanks to our forefathers for having the papers that declared us a country signed at a time of year that is best for celebrating — imagine how different Canada Day would be if it happened to fall on a cold, wintery day in January or February. 

We've had several milestone anniversaries, nowhere more celebrated than in Ottawa. The 100th anniversary in 1967, and the 125th both attracted the participation of Queen Elizabeth, with day-long events on Parliament Hill that upped the ante from other years. Last year's 150th went forward without the presence of our matriarch — Prince Charles was in attendance in her place — and festivities were somewhat dampened by drab weather, but nevertheless Canadians celebrated in style across the country, with municipalities large and small doing their upmost to recognize the anniversary not just on July 1, but with events that continued throughout the summer.

Niagara-on-the-Lake also stepped up to the plate, beginning with Canada 150 events in May that continued through to September, and a Canada Day celebration that was turned into a weekend-long event.

So this July 1, like that day 150 years ago when the first anniversary was celebrated, we can't expect quite the party of the previous year, although organizers of the NOTL events say they're doing their best to top last year's with the best Canada Day celebration yet.

And in some ways we have even more to celebrate. We can show our pride and gratitude for the events in history that made us who we are, especially given such shameful events south of the border that make so many of us even more grateful for being Canadian. We can party in Simcoe Park and at Fort George, in our backyards or at cottages surrounded by family and friends, maybe by taking in a Jays game, or having a barbecue that involves some drinking and dancing, and ending with the fireworks that became a tradition 151 years ago.

But whatever we decide to do to recognize the day, and whether we do it quietly or shouting from the rooftops, we will celebrate this great country of ours, and our good fortune of being able to call it home.

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