People look at tulips at Commissioners Park in Ottawa, during the Canadian Tulip Festival, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, May 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

People look at tulips at Commissioners Park in Ottawa, during the Canadian Tulip Festival, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday, May 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Long weekend traditions missed as Canadians abide by COVID measures

Canada’s unofficial start to summer has been pushed back by COVID-19

The Victoria Day long weekend for Rob Watson meant friends, sunshine, barbecue, beer and a cottage.

The 36-year-old laughingly remembers batting away black flies on morning runs in Port Stanley, Ont. He’d jump off the dock afterward to cool off, then crack a cold one before unfolding in a Muskoka chair for a lazy afternoon by the lake.

“(Victoria Day) is kind of when Canadians come out of hibernation,” said Watson, a competitive runner. ”It’s like: summer is here. It’s a very Canadian thing.”

This year, Canada’s unofficial start to summer has been pushed back by COVID-19. The long weekend known fondly as May Two-Four in parts of the country has been all but cancelled.

That cottage getaway, the Blue Jays game under an open Rogers Centre roof, or beers on a patio have been achingly replaced by blank squares on the calendar.

Canadians have largely supported physical distancing, and most understand it’s a necessary effort to avoid a potentially catastrophic spread of coronavirus. In a recent Leger poll, 97 per cent of respondents said they practise social distancing and a majority suggested they did not want to rush the reopening of venues, summer camps, bars and galleries.

Still, being able to hug friends and family and reconnect with people outside of their household is at the top of the list of things people miss most, according to an Angus Reid survey conducted after Easter.

And many Canadians, experts say, will feel the loss this weekend.

“One way to think about this pandemic, aside from all the illness, death and stress is that it’s also about loss, and it’s about the loss of all the things that we take for granted — the capacity to visit family or friends or go on public transit, go to a restaurant, go to a movie, go to a wedding,” said Diana Brecher, a clinical psychologist and Ryerson University professor. “There’s so many things that have been cancelled.”

When we’re mourning a loss, anniversaries crank up those feelings of bereavement, Brecher said.

“It’s like this big reminder of ‘Oh, that person, or that experience is no longer accessible to me,’” she said.

The May long weekend is also warm relief after a long winter.

“We’re Canadians, we live through this long winter and just as it starts to get nice, we’re told, ‘Don’t go out.’ Don’t be in nature that we’ve been craving for six months,” Brecher said.

“So not only is it a loss of what we typically associate with this particular weekend, the gateway to summer and relaxation and freedom and all the things we associate with summer vacations, it’s also a reminder of everything else we’ve lost.”

Karen Thomson will miss the loaves of jalapeno cheddar bread from the Old Country Market just off Alberni Highway on Vancouver Island. Goats graze on the grassy roof of the whimsical market.

Thomson, who turns 57 on Monday, has spent virtually every birthday and May long weekend since she was nine at her family’s cabin at nearby Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.

“It’s just nice to get away, sit and read, have lots of wine,” said Thomson, whose dad Barney built the cabin, which has an unobstructed view of the ocean.

BC Ferries has reminded people to avoid non-essential travel this weekend, citing “limited supplies, health-care equipment and resources” in a statement.

READ MORE: B.C. restaurants can host dine-in guests next week, but what will that look like?

Thomson’s family camped on the land for the first couple of years before building the cabin. Its plywood floors were replaced 15 years ago, but it’s otherwise unchanged. Her dad’s ashes are scattered there.

Kris Mychasiw will miss his morning double espresso on the patio of Non Solo Pane bakery in Dorval, Que. He loved feeling the breeze coming off Lake Saint-Louis.

“Places like these are what bring communities together, where friendships are built and fostered,” said Mychasiw, a sales and sponsorship executive who was furloughed several weeks ago. “Montreal is such a great city full of events and special culture that isn’t replicated anywhere else in North America.”

Quebec has had more than 73,000 confirmed cases and more than 5,400 deaths. Montreal is the epicentre of the coronavirus in Canada.

“It’s a sad time in our city,” said Mychasiw.

Jane Watanabe’s TV is usually turned to sports on Victoria Day weekend, which falls in the thick of the NBA and NHL playoffs. The 66-year-old legal secretary is a lifelong sports fan. She sometimes goes to Blue Jays games alone, buying 500-level tickets on the spur of the moment. Hockey is her first love.

“All three leagues (MLB, NHL and NBA) are shut down at the same time which for me I just think to myself ‘Oh my God, I’m missing my sports so much,’” Watanabe said.

She has the Raptors’ Game 6 championship victory over Golden State last year recorded. She often plays it while she’s puttering around her kitchen.

Watanabe sees the big picture.

“People are dying. It’s a pandemic,” she said. “I do miss my sport. But that just sounds callous when other stuff is going on that is much bigger.”

David Rios will miss “Murph.”

The classic Crossfit workout is named for Michael Murphy, a U.S. Navy Seal who died in Afghanistan in 2005, and received the Medal of Honor.

Crossfitters across North America do Murph — a mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, mile run — on Victoria Day in Canada, and Memorial Day in the U.S.

“It’s just that anticipation and the build-up to that day, when everyone comes together and does Murph as one,” Rios said. “It will obviously be different this year.”

Gordon Flett, a York University Professor and a Canada Research Chair in personality and health, said it’s important to keep optimistic and find good distractions this weekend — music, reading, podcasts — to avoid “ruminating about how they wish it was but isn’t right now.

“And keep taking things day-to-day and remind yourself occasionally that you made it this far, and this holiday weekend will hopefully be back to normal next year.”

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

A housing location for workers on the new Mills Memorial Hospital construction project has been approved by city council. (File photo)
Camp spot proposed for hospital construction workers

As many as 350 outside workers may be needed

Terrace city council are reaching out to the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson regarding councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller’s resignation on Feb. 22, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
City of Terrace seeking ombudsperson investigation into allegations of systemic racism

Councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller resigned Feb. 22, citing racism

A large provincial grant will make cycling and walking safer in Terrace. (File photo)
Large grant to make walking, cycling safer in Terrace

Pathway will connect old Skeena Bridge to the downtown

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read