Just forget the words and sing along

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Story of Family Day

Well, Family Day has come once again to the province of Alberta. And, as I like to do on every Family Day, I like to take moment to remind myself of why we celebrate this day. So please, sit back, as I tell the story of Family Day.

It has long been argued that Canada needs a holiday in February. The break between New Years and Easter is too long, and a long weekend in February would be good for morale as it provides people with a much needed break, and much needed hope. However, our federal leaders have never been able to decide what this holiday should celebrate. So, in the grand Alberta tradition of, "Screw Ottawa! We'll do it ourselves," the Progressive Conservative Government under Premier Don Getty set out to create a February holiday.

The third Monday in February was chosen, as it matched up with the American holiday of Presidents Day. And finally, all those American oil company executives in Calgary who donate a lot of money to the Progressive Conservative Party would stop complaining about how they had to work on Presidents Day.

But once again, the Conservatives ran into the problem of what to call this holiday. What should they celebrate? Well, it was around this time that scandal broke out in the Alberta government. Premier Getty's son was arrested on charges of dealing cocaine. Premier Getty reflected on this, and blamed himself. If he wasn't such a workaholic...if he spent more time with his family. Getty stood before the people of Alberta and said that if everybody took a day off once in a while to spend time with their families, then perhaps tragedies like these would be less likely.

And so, the holiday was called...Family Day.

The first Family Day was celebrated on February 19, 1990. But sadly, this holiday was not greeted with open arms. It met with considerable criticism from the Alberta business community. They argued that holidays are expensive things, what with the overtime pay that have to give to their employees, or lost revenue if they decide to close that day. So, to appease these special interests, the provincial government decided to downgrade Heritage Day (aka the August long weekend) to a civic holiday. This means that your company can make up for its lost Family Day revenues by making you work on the August long weekend.

In fact, there was so much opposition to Family Day in the beginning that one of Premier Ralph Klein's first election promises was to abolish Family Day. But by the time Klein finally came to power in 1992, Family Day has become firmly entrenched in the Alberta psyche, and people liked having that day off in February. Besides, which politician really wants their legacy to be the guy who cancels holidays? And now, as Family Day approaches its 20th anniversary, the idea has caught on so much that a great deal of Alberta businesses recognize both Family Day and Heritage Day.

Well, it still hasn't caught on with the federal government, which is why you'll still find the post office open today.

But Family Day is starting to grow in popularity. In 2006, Saskatchewan adopted Family Day as a holiday, and started celebrating in 2007. And then in 2007, Ontario adopted Family Day as a holiday, and began celebrating in 2008.

So, no matter where you find yourself today, be you at the Family Day pancake breakfast at your Legion hall, or building snowmen at your town's Family Day Winter Carnival, or just curled up on the couch watching a Family Day marathon on TV, I hope you'll take moment to raise your glass and drink to Premier Don Getty and his drug dealing son. For if it weren't for them, we would not be celebrating Family Day.

Well, we would probably still be celebrating a February holiday, it just wouldn't be called Family Day. Look at Manitoba. When they started celebrating a February holiday last year, they ditched the Family Day moniker and opted to call it Louis Riel Day.

So Alberta gets a day off because our premier felt guilty about his coke dealing son. Manitoba gets a day off to honour the founder of their province.

That's what we like to call the Alberta Advantage.

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