I love holidays as much as the next person. I mean who doesn’t appreciate some time off to unwind and recharge from the hustle and bustle of work, parenting or any of the other multitude of activities that encompass everyday living. Holidays provide a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family including the possibility of exploring the world around us both near and far.
However, since moving to Canada no holiday has intrigued me as much as the Family Day. Yes, you read it right “Family Day”. This is a day, set aside by most provinces in Canada to celebrate the importance of family considering it is the bedrock of the community and society at large. Isn’t that neat? I mean mothers have a day or two or even three depending on your geo-location and religious affiliations; fathers, grandparents and children each have a day as well but none of these days are statutory holidays. Go figure.
Family Day is marked either on the second or third Monday in February, and because it is observed on a Monday, it turns out to be a long weekend holiday; possibly longer with schools throwing in a couple of extra days, the result of which is a mini spring break. Being only a resident of Alberta a little over a year and having never heard of or celebrated such a holiday prior to this, I was excited to experience this.
Weeks leading to the day you could feel the buzz with adverts telling of facilities and organisations offering free skating, free swimming and other family friendly presentations and activities such as plays, petting zoos, live music and pop up shows to name a few. One was spoilt for choice over what to do over this long weekend. But the great thing was that you could spread out the activities from the preceding Thursday leading up to Family Day. So, depending on how far out in the city you wanted to explore you could have a weekend full of fun, family/kid friendly things to do.
Well I did as the Canadians do and ventured out skating with the family. Like ducks to water my trio took to skating easily. Not so much their momma who fell not once but twice and pulling with her those who tried to help. Suffice to say I have since registered at Westside Recreation Centre for skating lessons to save myself and other skaters.
What thrilled me though was the outpouring of people, families who had shown up to skate. Everyone was having a blast, helping whoever… I mean a young girl practically adopted my 4-year-old daughter to help her skate. It was a delight to behold. Of course, there were warm snacks and good ol’ Tim Hortons on hand to keep everyone warm from the February cold.
The next day Sunday we joined forces with another family and hit the road to Elbow River Falls at Kananaskis. The almost 45 minute drive was leisurely and scenic but the high points for us were hiking the trails, walking along the Elbow River which was frozen in some bits, making our first Inukshuk using the exposed rocks and pebbles form the river bed and ending the day with a picnic by the river with other families.
Monday was Winterfest at Fort Calgary. We arrived bright and early to enjoy the day’s activities which included Mountie-uniform try-ons (my kids have some more growing up to do to fit into those), listening to the band (my second got a kick from playing the drums afterwards), hearing the Blackfoot stories, reading the history of the Fort and of course enjoying a Quebecois sugar shack. I got to practice my French and was delighted to find out that the sugary snack is really maple syrup on ice. We’ll see if I can re-create this treat with all the snow and ice around.
Christmas, they say is the most wonderful time of the year, but I can honestly say Family Day is a close second. Without the paraphernalia of decorations and gift giving one could still sense the joy of community and expression of appreciation.
If you ever visit during the cool month of February do try to enjoy what Canada has to offer for Family Day. I am sure you won’t regret it.