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Heritage Day

Heritage Day 2019 and 2020

Heritage Day is held every third Monday in February to celebrate the people, places and events that helped shape Nova Scotia.

YearDateDayHolidayProvinces and Territories
201918 FebMonHeritage Day NS
202017 FebMonHeritage Day NS

Heritage Day was introduced to the legislature in 2013 in order to provide a mid-winter break. The holiday became a statutory holiday in 2015. The holiday was named in a naming campaign focused on Primary to Grade 12 students who were asked to work together to create the name for a holiday meant to instil pride in being from Nova Scotia. A three-member panel reviewed the recommendations from the students and chose the name Nova Scotia Heritage Day.

Each year one person is chosen as an honouree for their contribution to Nova Scotia’s diversity. The first honouree was Viola Desmond, an African American who stopped in New Glasgow when her car broke down on a business trip. While her car was being repaired, she decided to watch a movie, unaware that African American’s were required to sit in a balcony seat.

Lower level seats cost ten cents more and Ms. Desmond offered to pay the difference to sit on the lower level. When they refused to sell the ticket, she sat on the main level and refused to leave. She was arrested and ordered to pay a fine of $26 or go to jail. She paid the fine, but her actions were important to the civil rights movement in Nova Scotia. Ms. Desmond died in 1965 and Nova Scotia offered an official apology and free pardon to her.

Celebrations and Traditions

Because it is a provincial holiday, provincial offices, schools and most businesses close on Heritage Day. Federal government offices, national businesses, banks, airlines and railways are often open, however. Because the holiday falls on a Monday, it provides a long weekend that allow families to plan short vacations or to catch up with friends and family.

The holiday is designed to coincide with other provincial days like Family Day or Islander Day as well as the President’s Day holiday in the United States. There is usually a government ceremony that recognises the Heritage Day honouree of the year as well.

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