Happy Birthday Canada!

On the 1st of July, we celebrated what is more frequently referred to as "Canada's birthday", particularly in the popular press, the occasion marks the joining of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec) on 1st of July 1867.

Where better place to be for the birthday of a country than in the capital, Ottawa, the locus of the celebrations where large concerts and cultural displays are held on Parliament Hill, with the governor general and prime minister typically officiating, though the monarch or another member of the Royal Family may also attend or take the governor general's place. Rising early, myself and one of my classmates made for Parliament Hill where most of the action would be happening for the morning. Already people were ‘out and about’ (said in my best Canadian accent!), dressed in red and white, of course. I didn’t have anything red in my wardrobe of blue but I did have my Canadian baseball cap and we got a Canadian pin later.

Stopping by one of the best bakeries in Ottawa on Elgin St, we picked up some breakfast to eat along the way.
Bakery on Elgin Street!
The Changing of the Guard ceremony was due to begin at 9 am but to get a somewhat decent spot, you need to be there earlier. Think of O Connell Street on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s the kind of crowds we are talking about. Volunteers passed through the crowds handing out little Canadian flags and water. Thankfully, it wasn’t too hot that day though the temperatures did soar a little later in the afternoon.

As we listened to the Pipe Band lead the celebrations, I realise that I am very much an army child! It brought back memories of listening to the Army Pipe Band and the Western Command Band (of which my Dad was part of) during their daily practices bright and early. We were privy to all this considering we lived on the other side of the Army Barracks wall. The Changing of the Guard was impressive. I gathered it was quite similar to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. At 9.30am, there was the raising of the flag and I stood with the proud Canadians as they sang their National Anthem. This was followed by the beautiful carillon concert (53, mind you!) from the Peace Tower. The Hill was also to be the venue for the Canada Day Noon show which began with the inspection of the guard and the 21 gun salute. 

We decided to wander around some of the other parks just to experience the atmosphere. It was really well organised and there was plenty to keep the children (and the adults) busy and occupied. Outdoor art, magic shows, music concerts, talent shows, large size chess, train rides, there was something for everyone. Energy levels were waning so I headed home for a few hours and skipped the Canada Day Evening Show which included a variety of performances by Canadian artists. Enjoy the fun and sing along with great Canadian musicians. In the evening, it was back downtown for the fireworks. En route to finding a spot near Parliament Hill, first I got an unexpected musical treat. Just near the War Memorial, I saw a group of people stopped listening to a street musician. When I got nearer I realised it was the acoustic guitarist Tom Ward (sorry Tom, but I recognised the guitar before I did you!). Tom Ward was one of the finalists in Australia’s Got Talent in 2011 and dazzled the judges with his acoustic shredding. You can watch his audition here.

His guitar is recognisable because it is literally shredded from the speed with which Tom plays. After listening for a while, I proceeded onwards to watch the fireworks which were the grand finale of the day. They were pretty impressive especially against the backdrop of the monuments and buildings. On the way home, Tom was still strumming away so I stopped once again. He played one of my favourite pieces, Asturias by Isaac Albeniz. I chatted him a little bit after he finished, such a nice guy and he even gave me a gift of one of his CD’s for both myself and a friend! A bonus ending to a great day. God bless Canada!

For some amazing pictures of the day, check out this site.