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

Victoria police are asking for help locating 14-year-old, high-risk missing youth, Anabella Lilly. (Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating high-risk missing youth

Police say the circumstances under which 14-year-old Anabella Lilly went missing are “high-risk”

Victoria fire crews quickly extinguished a multi-unit apartment building fire near Beacon Hill Park on Oct. 30. (Courtesy of Chief Paul Bruce)
Victoria fire crews extinguish multi-unit fire near Beacon Hill Park

Two people have suffered non-life-threatening injuries

Cat owners are being warned to keep their pets indoors after a threatening note was found posted in a North Saanich neighbourhood. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
ROAM warns Peninsula cat owners after threatening note posted in neighbourhood

Note writer doesn’t want cats pooping in their yard, threatens to trap them

Norm Scott, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch no. 91 in Lanford, pins the first poppy to launch the annual Poppy Campaign on George Baker, who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1953 to 1989. Baker said it was an honour to be chosen for something so significant for veterans everywhere. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
Poppy campaign launches in Langford with pinning ceremony

The poppy campaign is officially underway with the first of the pins… Continue reading

A sentencing hearing began for Joel Conway who was convicted of break and enter and sexual assault last year. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Sentencing begins for Saanich man convicted of sexual assault, break and enter

Crown is asking Joel Conway be sentenced to four years for both charges, to be served concurrent

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Most Read