“It’s the 24th of May and we likes to get away” sings Buddy Wassisname and the Other Fellers in commemoration of how we celebrate Victoria Day. Come rain or snow, Newfoundlanders on this weekend officially declare winter is over and the time for outdoor celebrations has arrived.
When we were children, the Friday nearest the 24th would be the first picnic of the year. Teachers would take the students out to a local beach or garden for sack races and other games. There would be “Freshie” or “Purity syrup” and cookies brought by the teachers and those students who could afford it would bring Scottie’s chips, Vienna sausages and their own bottle of drinks. Sandwiches and hot dogs were unheard off. Towards the end of the afternoon, the teacher would toss candy in the air and everyone would scramble to get some. As we made our way home, we would sing “The 24th of May is the Queen’s birthday, If we don’t get a holiday, we’ll all run away”. It must have been effective because the 24th of May is still a holiday in all Newfoundland schools.
And because it is a spring holiday, it is time for an outdoor time. The 24th is time to go trouting, then fry up the fish outside, and follow it up with time for music and dancing, often around the campfire. Even when snow and rain cause us to go home wet and cold, we will still tell stories next winter about the time we had and eagerly look forward to the next May 24th.