01 July 2009

Oh: Canada!

In keeping with my timely recognition of holidays, it is my duty to present to you today's holiday of choice: Canada Day. As many of you may know (but probably more of you do not), the First of July is Canada's Fourth of July. In much the same way that Americans celebrate Independence Day, Canada and Canadians around the world celebrate with fireworks, parades, and the annual arrival of the Canada Bunny to deliver sparkly treats and maple leaves. The celebration commences with a public singing of the Canadian National Anthem "O, Canada!" which is hummed along wordlessly around the country since, just like in America, the people don't really know the words to their anthem either--unless they happen to be acquiring or have a music degree.

Canada was officially born in 1867 as a result of the Canadian Confederation and a carefully designed delivery room. After a little bit of epidural and some parental coaching, Canada burst into the world to a room full of appreciative and happy people (and the father passed out on the floor). Like many new parents, the Fathers of the Confederation were not certain what to name this new creation. One of the great grandfathers of Canada, Jacques Cartier, had started calling the area "Canada" (based on the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata" meaning "village") in the 14th Century. The name stuck like a hair in a biscuit (or a cheveu in a bannock), until it came time to officially name the country. Then, every Canadian cousin, uncle, great grandneighbor, and sisters' ex-brothers-in-law showed up with suggestions, such as:
  • Victorialand,
  • Tuponia,
  • Superior,
  • Frances ("It was your grandfather's middle name. You do want to honor your grandfather, don't you?"),
  • Borealia,
  • Hochelaga, and of course
  • Steve.

Although I am partial to "Superior" for its anatomical accuracy and "Borealia" for its astronomical allusion (the Aurora Borealis would make much more sense to people nowadays), I wasn't around to give my suggestion. So: Canada it is!

Excited to have a new name, Canadians evidently forgot one of the most important parts of becoming a nation: conquering a foreign country. No, I'm sorry. I mean: making a flag. It was nearly one hundred years later before Canada had its own flag. Before 1965, Canada still semi-proudly waved the Union Jack in the corner of their flag. Prime Minister Mackenzie King ("King Mack" to his friends) tried to get a new flag created in the '20s and the '40s, but a couple of wars broke out (not related to his flag-making attempts) and he became too busy.

Finally, in 1964, Prime Minister Lester Pearson ("Pierce Lester" to his pointy stick-wielding boyhood bullies) established a committee featuring fifteen members of all different parties (conservative, liberal, social democratic, and ice cream social) and gave them six weeks to design a new flag for the nation. For five-and-a-half weeks, the committee labored and debated over what kind of sandwiches they should order for the next meeting. Finally, around the Thursday afternoon before the deadline, someone stepped up and suggested they all bring their own lunches so they can get down to the business at hand: how to celebrate their successful sandwich-ordering accomplishments.

Somewhere in there the red maple leaf (with 11 points representing the fact that a maple leaf typically has 11 points) and the red and white stripes were suggested and put on a sample flag. In 1965, the flag was accepted and has been flown proudly as the national symbol of Canada since.

So, happy birthday, Canada! The world wouldn't know what to do without you.

I close with the following tribute to Canada:

"O, Canada! Our home and native land.
Something something something all thy something hmm...
O, Canada! O, Canada!
God shed His grace on thee.
O, Canada! O, Canada!
How lovely is thy maple leaf!"

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