When Helen Hunley, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, passed the Family Day Act in 1990, it was so workers could spend more time with their loved ones. Family Day has slowly become more popular in Canada. In 2007, it was adopted by Saskatchewan, and it came to Ontario in 2008. British Columbia started celebrating it in 2013 and New Brunswick in 2018.
Those who remember the implementation of Family Day in Ontario in 2008 likely also remember complaints about closed movie theatres, shopping malls and restaurants. Though we were being encouraged to spend time with our loved ones, there was nothing to do.
This Family Day is different. It has been a difficult year for many families. People have been living with the reality of Ontario’s shutdown. Many did not get a chance to see family over the holidays, and others have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
“I’ve spent less time with my family as a result of the lockdown,” says John Cutland, 26. Cutland lives in Centretown and has family nearby who he sees about once a month. “We didn’t do Thanksgiving this year.”
The same was true for Christmas, says Cutland.”Every year I see my father’s entire side of the family on Christmas. This year we gathered over Zoom, with my grandmother alone in the hospital. My mother’s father was also hospitalized for several months, including Christmas. My brother is in Toronto, about to become a father. My parents hope to hold their granddaughter when she is born, but with Toronto still a hotbed for COVID-19, we wonder if this will be a reality.
Cutland says that Family Day has never been something his own family has observed.
“I think we celebrated it once by just having a get-together and eating dinner,” says Cutland. “The other years it’s not usually been a priority as it just wasn’t considered as important a day to meet up, unlike other holidays.”
My own family always felt the same as Cutland’s. My father works for the government, so he never gets Family Day off, but this year “family” was a whole lot more important.
To celebrate, my dad tried his hand at a new dish – steak Diane – which involves flambéing the sauce. My mom and I stood by the fire extinguisher, waiting for him to lose his eyebrows to the flames. Fortunately, our precautions weren’t necessary, and the steak was amazing. We drank wine and ate a chocolate log that my mom had prepared for dessert.
Like Cutland, I never saw Family Day as a holiday before. This year, I feel like the Grinch after his heart began to grow. The simplicity of being together and celebrating just having each other is a beauty like no other.