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Canada Day, formerly called Dominion Day, is celebrated annually on 1 July in Canada. Although first established in 1868, the annual festivities surrounding the holiday did not come into effect until nearly a century later. The holiday celebrates the union of the British North American provinces into one nation called Canada.
In 1867, the separate provinces of North America under British rule symbolically joined together. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec made up the new country, called Canada. The following year, the Governor of the new nation called for an anniversary celebration to be held on 1 July 1868. The day was officially established as a holiday in 1879, officially titled “Dominion Day.”
Perhaps due to their continued ties to England, Canadians were slow to embrace nationalism. Not until the 1980s was Canada completely established as an independent nation, although the British had held only nominal powers for several decades before that point. Canada Day celebrations waned in popularity for many years, with no established official mode of celebration. In the mid-20th century, Canadian national pride became more prominent, and the holiday was finally celebrated with some sense of official tradition.
Today, Canada Day is celebrated much like Independence Day in the United States. Common activities include local and governmental parades, including military ceremonies in the capital of Ottawa. In order to spur popularity of the holiday, the Canadian government began funding celebrations in towns and cities throughout the country. A popular feature is large-scale concert performances, often held under the name Festival Canada or Fete du Canada. Fireworks displays are also a mainstay of the holiday.
Canada often uses the holiday as a launching point for important national events, such as the establishment of “O, Canada” as the national anthem in 1980. It has also been used for the first color TV transmission in the nation and the creation of the highest civilian honor in the nation, the Order of Canada. Despite Canada’s sovereign rule, the Queen of England has frequently participated in the celebrations, as a symbol of continued friendly relations between the two countries.
For the average Canadian citizen, Canada Day is celebrated with barbecues, picnics, fireworks displays and sometimes a local parade. The holiday is by no means universally celebrated, and is often met with resistance and occasionally hostility in the province of Quebec, where many citizens have long desired independence from Canada. But Canada Day provides most Canadians with a chance to kick back and relax without the pressure of formal celebratory traditions. Many of the large celebrations grow more popular each year, as more Canadians desire to express pride in their nation, or at least want to have a good time celebrating.
There is no such person as the Queen of England. Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia and a number of other Commonwealth countries. In each country, her primary title is the local one, so Queen Elizabeth celebrates Canada Day in Canada as Queen of Canada, not Queen of the United Kingdom or Queen of New Zealand.