Being thousands of miles away from Canada I wasn’t exactly excited about Canada Day this year. I am currently living in a country that barely celebrates St. George’s Day, their own national holiday, so to envision a celebration for a mere commonwealth nation seemed a little much. I started thinking my expectations might be wrong when I took my daily look at Timeout London looking for things to do in this city. It was on this site I noticed there was a gathering at Trafalgar Square in Central London for us Canadians to celebrate our holiday.
Having studied Canadian history in University and having a Canadian expert for a father, I was excited to attend this celebration, but not for the reasons you might think. In University I took a class on Canadian cultural identity where we looked at how Canada is perceived by the rest of the world and how we celebrate our culture, our heritage and our nation. When I went down to Trafalgar square on Sunday I was planning on looking at this celebration as how the British perceived us Canadians. My original plan was to spend an hour or two there, take a few pictures, and send them on to my Dad for a laugh. Naturally I will probably still do this, but what I wasn’t expecting was that I actually kind of miss these “stereotypical Canadian things”.
As I made the short walk from Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar square I began realizing this Canada Day celebration was a much bigger deal than I had been expecting. While it was still very stereotypical, it was clearly run by Canadians and had a very patriotic feeling that made me feel much more like a Canadian than I have in a while (I feel myself slowly sinking into becoming just another foreigner in London). The ceremony opened with the Canadian High Comissioner, Gordon Campbell, dropping the puck on the street hockey rink that was set up in the middle of Trafalgar Square. A street hockey tournament then took place throughout the day as ex pat Canadians rushed towards the rink for a glimpse of the sport they so dearly miss. It was truly a novelty here as you would rarely see a street hockey game in Canada being watched by hundreds of Canadians. Just as I showed up Stompin‘ Tom Connors‘ “Hockey Song” blared on the loud speakers as all the Canadians surrounding the rink joined in for the chorus. It was one of the more surreal feelings of my life singing the Hockey Song at the top of my lungs in a major city halfway across the world.
As I continued to roam through Trafalgar Square I began to almost forget the fact I was in London. Molson Canadian was being served at the beer tent and Canadian songs were being blasted over the large speaker. Everything from The Tragically Hip to Carly Rae Jepsen to…Justin Bieber (I can’t get away from Bieber!). The true Canadian spirit was out in full force throughout the rare sunny day and the crowd continued to expanded as the temperature increased, Canadian bands appeared on stage and the number of hockey jerseys (both Canadian and various NHL teams) skyrocketed.
Although the day was about as stereotypically Canadian as you could get (including a Yoga performance sponsored by Lululemon) it was a truly enjoyable one. The Canadian organisers went through a lot of effort putting the celebration together, even getting a Canadian host (Cabral Richards) and serving poutine. I fully intend to return next year as it was an unbelievable party in a great setting in the heart of London with Big Ben in the background. I unfortunately had to miss the major attractions of the night, Our Lady Peace, as I snuck home to watch the European Cup Final, but it was a very cool experience getting to celebrate my national holiday with fellow Canadians despite being so far away from home. As much as I do love London there are times I do miss the Canadian lifestyle, it was nice to relive…even if it was only for a day.