Canada Day 2013: History Behind The Canadian National Holiday

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The Fourth of July may be days away, but America’s northern neighbor is celebrating its independence from British rule on Monday, July 1, or Canada Day.

Called Dominion Day until 1982, the national holiday marks the passing of the Constitution Act of 1867 that joined the province of Canada (modern day Ontario and Quebec) and the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into one federal state modeled on Britain’s parliamentary system. Until that point, the provinces were separate entities with their own currencies.

While July 1 celebrates independence from England, Canada was still tied to its mother land until 1982. The Canada Act passed that year established true independence from England by allowing the country’s basic constitutional laws to be legally amended without action from British Parliament.

The national holiday was formally established in 1879, but Canadians only got into the independence spirit 50 years after confederation. Still feeling connected to the British Empire, many Canadians chose to focus their patriotic sentiments on Victoria Day -- dedicated to Queen Victoria’s birthday. The Canadian flag reflected this: The country had the Union Jack on its flag until 1965, when it adopted the red and white maple leaf design.

By 1980, Canadians grew into their new identity and Canada Day celebrations began popping up throughout the country. The country’s national anthem, “Oh Canada,” became official that same year, 100 years after the song was composed.

The celebrating of Canada Day is marked by parades, fireworks and concerts. Google Canada celebrated the holiday with a commemorative doodle. In the nation’s capital, Ottawa, singer Carly Rae Jepsen will be performing on Parliament Hill. Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, whose photos captured at the International Space Station went viral online, will be performing a song he co-wrote from space with Barenaked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson. The pair first performed the song, “Is Somebody Singing,” while Hadfield was in orbit and Robertson was back home on Earth.

"To be able to bring that now and play it here on Canada Day, a song that is about being Canadian, about our country, about exploration, about opportunity, to me it couldn't be more perfect and natural," he told Canoe News.

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