July 1st – definition: Canada Day. A day where Canadians celebrate everything Canadian such as poutine, Tim Horton’s, hockey, maple syrup, and touques. Which leaves some other countries scratching their heads and saying: eh?
As a Canadian living abroad there is something uniquely Canadian that I miss. You can say a lot about us, but we have a national pride (albeit one that doesn’t often come out other then on hockey nights) that can’t be matched anywhere else, and as much as I love the UK, I will always call Canada and it’s people home. This year was even more monumental as Canada celebrated its 150th ‘Birthday’, with celebrations happening all over the world. London was no different!
After visiting Canada in early June for a friends wedding, I realised that going back for Canada Day wasn’t going to be an option. Having just been there and seeing all the build up to it, as well as making a few timely purchases of Canada themed clothing, I was pretty disappointed to be missing it. About halfway through my trip I realised that July 1st was on a Saturday this year, and I immediately set about looking into what the UK had to offer for celebrations. I knew that Trafalgar Square in London has always put on an event to mark Canada day; however, had never been able to attend due to work commitments on a weekday. I pretty quickly sussed out what was on, texted Rich to inform him what we were going to do (his first response was to request his own Canada t-shirt), and started planning.
We headed into London on Saturday morning with our Canada shirts and flags and got many looks along the way. It wasn’t until we started nearing the tube stops closer to Trafalgar Square that we started to spot others in red, white, and maple leafs. It was then that the curious stares and outright eyes rolls ended and the nods of recognition and silent ‘I see you’ appreciative looks began. As we got off the train and neared the entrance, I was surrounded on all sides with greetings, apologies, general eh’s, and Canadian slang, and as we entered the square there was an Air Canada rep there to greet us. It was as close to home as I could get without ever having to board a plane.
So what was the first thing we had to do? Take a selfie of course!
We decided to take a wander around and see what stalls and booths were set up, with the aim to get a drink (preferably a Tim’s) and find a seat for when they opened the show with the Canadian anthem. This proved somewhat tricky as it was BUSY. So busy! There were so many people there and everyone seemed to be standing the lines that I wanted to be in.
After seeing the line for Tim Horton’s, we decided to come back to it later and instead settled for a beer – of the Sleemans variety.
We managed to fight our way around the square and at least get a look at what the stalls had to offer before finding a seat with a good view of the stage and hockey rink.
After a rousing rendition of ‘O Canada’, they started a ‘celebrity’ hockey game. I say celebrity; however, the only celebrity we could name was the Canadian defector Mark Carney, who is the former head of the Bank of Canada and now the head of the Bank of England.
We watched a bit of the hockey game and then went to get some poutine for lunch. Unfortunately, due to the fact that every Canadian who was not in Canada was in the Square at that moment in time, we decided to give the poutine a miss and instead headed over to Canada House for a tour. Home of the High Commission of Canada (whatever that means), they opened up the ground floor to look around and set up a few more stands to peruse. It didn’t take us long to realise it was actually quite a boring place, so we headed back out to try one last time to get some Tim Bits and an Ice Cap.
As you can see, it didn’t happen! But they did have a Second Cup stall, so we got a frozen hot chocolate before walking over to the Maple Leaf in Covent Garden to continue our day.
Much like Trafalgar Square the Maple Leaf was packed full of everything Canadian. We (barely) managed to grab a beer before heading outside where we got caught up in some impromptu anthem signing, chanting, and general talk about Canada. After a long day we said goodbye to all our new friends, folded our flags, and got on the train to head home.
Although it wasn’t Canada, London did a pretty good job hosting all of us Canadians (and our honourary Canadian partners, spouses, and friends) for a great day celebrating Canada 150.