Life is not all about work, in Canada, Family Day is celebrated to enrich lives and communities. In a time where being apart has become common, we wish everyone the best in taking the time to reach out and catch up with those most important to them. Managing mental and emotional wellbeing is just as important as ensuring that physical safety requirements are maintained. Perhaps there are other areas of the world who could learn from this message to create inclusive holidays.
Family Day is observed in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick on the third Monday of February. In British Columbia, Family Day falls on the second Monday of February. This holiday celebrates the importance of families and family life to people and their communities, it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.
What Do People Do?
On Family Day, many people plan and take part in activities aimed at the whole family. These include visiting art exhibitions, watching movies, skating on outdoor ice rinks, playing board games, and taking part in craft activities. Some communities plan special public events, and art galleries and museums may have reduced price or free entry.
As the weather is usually very cold in February, hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies are popular snacks. Other people use the long weekend as an opportunity for a short winter break or to travel to visit family members or friends. As Family Day falls on the same date as National Heritage Day (except in British Columbia), some people use the day to explore their personal heritage and family history.
In the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and New Brunswick many people have a day off work and schools are generally closed on Family Day. Many businesses and organizations are closed, but post offices may be open. Public transport services may run to their usual or reduced timetables.
In the province of Manitoba, the third Monday of February is a general holiday, known as Louis Riel Day. Many people have a day off work. Schools and many businesses, organizations, and stores are closed. In some communities, stores are open after noon. Public transport services may run on Sunday or holiday timetables. In rural areas, there may be no services.
In the other provinces and territories of Canada, Family Day is not observed, and there are no other holidays falling on the second Monday in February. Businesses, organizations, schools, and post offices are open as usual, and public transport services run to their normal timetables.
First held in Alberta in 1990, Family Day was proposed by the province’s former premier, Don Getty, after his son was arrested for dealing drugs. Although Getty denied any connection, it is believed that this episode motivated him to establish an occasion to counteract what he saw as the erosion of family values in Canadian society.
Family Day is supposed to reflect the values of family and home that were important to the pioneers who founded Alberta, and to give workers the opportunity to spend more time with their families. It was introduced in Saskatchewan in 2007 and in Ontario in 2008. British Columbia observed Family Day as a statutory holiday for the first time in 2013, New Brunswick in 2018.
Holidays to celebrate families are also held in other places around the globe. In the Australian Capital Territory, the first Tuesday of November is known as Family and Community Day. In South Africa, the day after Easter Sunday is Family Day.