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Family Day

Family Day 2019 and 2020

Family Day is an officially recognized holiday in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and British Columbia.

Year Date Day Holiday Provinces and Territories
2019 18 Feb Mon Family Day AB, BC, NB, ON
& SK
2020 17 Feb Mon Family Day AB, BC, NB, ON
& SK

The basic purpose of Family Day is to provide a special occasion on which Canadians can celebrate family and community life and to provide a holiday in the otherwise holiday-vacant, three-month span between New Year’s Day and Good Friday. Alberta first instituted Family Day in 1990 to celebrate the family life of the early pioneers, Saskatchewan made it a public holiday in 2007, Ontario in 2008, and British Columbia in 2013.

School children and private-sector workers get Family Day off, but as the holiday is a provincial and not a federal matter, federal workers do not get it off. This sometimes causes controversy, but then again, so does the fact that only public-sector employees get off on Easter Monday in Canada. Despite most people being off work to spend time with their families, post offices are still open as are public transportation facilities, though sometimes on a reduced schedule.

On Family Day, many take part in winter sports like ice skating, hockey, skiing, or snowboarding. There are community events and winter festivals to attend all over Canada this time of year. It is also popular to attend art exhibits and various museums, which frequently have discounts or even free entry on Family Day.

Activities on Family Day

Five activities that tourists in Canada on or around the time of Family Day may want to take part in are:

  • Attend Winterlude in Ottawa, the Canadian capital. This dead-of-winter festival stretches across three solid weeks during February. Popular events involved include: skating on the world’s largest ice rink, making snow men or having snowball fights in the world’s largest “snow playground,” watch world-renown ice sculptors go to work, have your kids take beginner’s skiing lessons, and attend numerous music concerts.
  • Attend the Quebec City Carnaval de Quebec (Quebec Carnival), which begins in late January and runs through mid-February. This is the largest winter festival in Canada and has its origins in pre-Lenten festivals of the original French colonists, though it officially was organized in 1955. Here, there are many outdoor sports and activities to take part in: dogsled races, canoe races, skating, bathing in the snow, going down snow slides, attending open-air dances, and watching late-night parades.
  • The Ontario Family Ice-Fishing Weekend, which covers three days in mid-February. On this weekend, the usual fishing licenses are unnecessary, which lets tourists enjoy some free (and legal) ice fishing over frozen-solid Canadian rivers and lakes. The tourist can find many ice fishing contests and ice fishing travel packages if he searches for them online.
  • The Great Backyard Bird Count Weekend, held on Family Day weekend in Ontario. For four consecutive days, bird watchers of all stripes gather to tally bird sightings, see some of Canada’s most amazing birdlife, and educate themselves further on their favorite topic. The event is jointly put on by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell lab of Ornithology and is 100 percent free to attend.
  • Eat Beaver Tails at the pastry-stand chain called Beaver Tails, though in Quebec it is known as Queues de Castor. Beaver Tails are particularly popular around Family Day. They consist of fried dough that has been shaped to resemble a beaver tail with toppings such as whipped cream, sliced bananas, Oreo crumbles, and other sweets.