The Mystery of Family Day

February 16, 2015 at 1:10 pm (Uncategorized) ()

It’s Family Day here in Ontario and across most of Canada. Now, as much as I like (unpaid in my case) time off of work, Family Day is a bit of a mystery to me.

When I lived in Alberta in the mid-nineties, Family Day was already celebrated there, having been proclaimed in 1990. Next was Saskatchewan in 1997, then most of the other provinces established the holiday in the mid-2000s. Right now, only families in Quebec, New Brunswick, the territories and federal employees have to go to work today.

When Alberta introduced the holiday, it was in the name of spending time with families and family values, and was accompanied by howls of criticism from business groups about having to pay workers for a day off. (“I suppose you’ll be wanting to take Christmas Day off Mr. Cratchitt?”). Nevertheless, it spread.

In Toronto, the Friday before Family Day was traditionally a PA day in the school board, so the addition of Family Day made for a four day weekend for kids, and many parents choose to take that extra day as well. Friends of mine took their kids on a trip to Ottawa this weekend. I suppose huddling together to fight the bitter cold (and Ottawa is even colder than the -30 temperatures here in Toronto) is one way to bring family members together, but I digress.

What surprises me is that no one seems to have been able to find a way to market this day as a way to spend money like Thanksgiving in the U.S. (much more of a family affair than in Canada). Perhaps it’s just too close to the bloated chocolate affair that is Valentine’s Day, but I’m sure it’s coming. If Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can transform from Hallmark Holidays into the spectacle they are today, Family Day can’t be far behind. C’mon capital, show us what you’ve got!


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