This year: Wednesday, February 15, 2017
The National Flag of Canada Day
On February 15, 1965 the Canadian parliament flew for the first time the new Canadian flag featuring a maple leaf. Until then, Canada didn't have an officially adopted national flag and the flag that flew before on Canadian ships and over Canadian government buildings was referred to as the Red Ensign, having more of a British look to it than anything else. But with the adoption of the maple leaf design in 1965 Canada finally had a flag it could call its own. In 1996, the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chretien decreed that February 15 will be annually celebrated as National Flag of Canada Day. The name including "of Canada" was chosen because governing bodies such as the National Assembly of Quebec objected to just calling the holiday National Flag Day. The official title of National Flag of Canada Day is rarely used outside Ottawa - the capital of Canada. To the rest of the country it is simply known as Flag Day.
However, National Flag of Canada Day is not a federal holiday in Canada. It is only a day of remembrance, even though many Canadian citizens would like it to be recognized officially, because of the big lack of holidays during that time of year.
In 1867, 36 delegates from all provinces and territories of Canada and delegates from London, England, got together to form a political union which prime objective was to protect Canada as a British possession against the aggressive expansion policies of the United States. Canadian history refers to these 36 delegates as the Fathers of the Confederation, who in 1867, along with the British, passed the Constitution Act of 1867 establishing Canada as a federal dominion. At that time the Red Ensign was used to indicate all Canadian official business as it symbolized Canada's status as a British possession. But when in 1964 the Prime Minister Lester Pearson was faced with the coming centennial of the creation of Canada, he wanted a Canadian flag to be used for the ceremony. After a year of debate and deliberation, the design was finally approved by the Canadian parliament and the Queen of England, and the Canadian Maple Leaf was born.
If you visit the Canadian Heritage website (www.pch.gc.ca), in the section dedicated to the National Flag of Canada Day you will find some interesting details on the flag etiquette in Canada. For example, the Canadian flag must be on its own mast or flagpole and no other flag can be flown with the Canadian flag. But, curiously, it is okay to fly the Canadian flag at night without it being lit.
Learning about the culture and history of other countries is always interesting. It can be also fascinating when doing your research you find out new and unusual things about other nations. Just as in this case - it is rather puzzling that the vast country of Canada, America's long time northern neighbor, has only had an officially recognized national flag for a little over 40 years!