Millions of Canadians are staying home from work and school today, enjoying the statutory holiday known as Victoria Day. Which is a bit strange, when you think about it.
A quick explanation, in case you’re not Canadian:
Queen Victoria was on the throne when Canada politely asked if it could maybe, perhaps, if it’s okay, become its own country in 1867. Having already lost most of the continent to the Americans, it seemed wise for remaining British territories to join forces, just in case the Yankees decided to dump some tea into the Great Lakes or something. So Canada was born.
When Victoria died in 1901, we were so sad about it that we made her birthday a national holiday. We’ve been celebrating it ever since, and with each passing year, it feels less and less relevant. When we were a proud part of the world’s largest empire, it seemed like a good idea. Now it’s just weird.
Britain doesn’t celebrate it. They never have. No other country in the Commonwealth celebrates it.
I’ve got nothing against good old Queen Victoria, but here we are, more than a century after her death, and we’re still dedicating a national holiday to someone who wasn’t Canadian. Who never even visited Canada. The coolest thing she did was to be the longest-reigning female monarch in history, and even that record is about to be broken; Queen Elizabeth will be the new record holder as of September 9th of this year.
So maybe that’s a sign. Maybe it’s time for us to re-name the May long weekend for someone else. Someone who, you know, lived here and stuff. Someone who helped Canada through its growing pains as it transitioned from stodgy Victorian colony to an inclusive, creative, peace-loving nation.
Someone like Joni Mitchell.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The combination of guitar and dulcimer. Mitchell plays the dulcimer on this track, while her then-boyfriend James Taylor plays the guitar.
2. The way her voice cruises along in its lower register for a few lines, and then suddenly shoots off into some high notes, like a startled pigeon suddenly taking off.
3. The lyrics. On the back of a cartoon coaster/In the blue TV screen light/I drew a map of Canada with your face sketched on it twice. Patriotism never sounded so heartbreakingly romantic.
Recommended listening activity:
Making a paper crown for someone who deserves it.