It’s just another manic Monday in Montreal.
But in most of the rest of the country, it’s a statutory holiday. In Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, it’s Family Day. In Manitoba, it’s Louis Riel Day. In Nova Scotia, it’s Heritage Day. In Prince Edward Island, it’s Islander Day.
Whatever they call it, most Canadians are enjoying a reprieve from the daily grind with a provincially mandated break while we suffer another bout of the Mondays. Somehow that seems wrong.
Sure, Quebec likes to go its own way. We are a distinct society, after all, even when it comes to holidays. We alone celebrate St-Jean-Baptiste Day on June 24 as our Fête nationale. It makes a certain amount of sense to save up long weekends for the summer, when it’s actually nice out. But the ROC has a long weekend in August that we do not. So it seems we’re still losing out.
There are good arguments for a day off during the doldrums of February. Last week’s snowstorm and subsequent snow day is a case in point for how badly Montrealers want and need a time-out from the schlepping, slipping, shovelling, scraping and shivering. The alacrity with which school, university and CEGEP were cancelled, when the blizzard had barely even begun, speaks to this eagerness for a little respite.
Though the overnight storm that dumped about 40 centimetres on Montreal predictably petered out by mid-morning, it didn’t seem like a waste. Even if many parents were forced to work from home on the snow day, some managed to squeeze in a little fresh air to keep the kids from going stir crazy. In my neighbourhood, the parks were transformed into snow forts, people were skiing down the sidewalks and babies were being lugged around on sleds. Neighbours helped each other unearth their buried cars.
There was a sense of tranquility and patience. No one was rushing to get anywhere. There was nowhere really to go. Everyone seemed to be greeting the day with a collective shrug — and a sigh of relief.
Of course, not everyone can work from home on a hastily declared snow day, putting unfortunate pressure on some families. It’s a poor substitute for a real holiday, which would allow many more people to take part.
It’s true, March break is just around the corner, when schools close and more fortunate families might take ski trips or beach vacations. Yet the school system seems to acknowledge the importance of a breather right about now. Many Montreal schools have not one, but two pedagogical days this week. A little change from the daily routine is welcome for students and teachers alike.
So there’s still something to be said for a day off in February, to hunker down with hot chocolate and get your Hygge on, or lace up the skates and enjoy one of the outdoor activities that make winter not just bearable, but fun.
This winter, each week has seemed an eternity. Even if the days are getting longer again, many of us are still getting up and returning home in the dark. Snowstorms have been coupled with rainfall and freeze-ups that have made getting around a physical and mental chore.
Seasonal depression is a very real thing, though poorly understood. And even mild cases — a feeling of lethargy rather than medical diagnosis — deserve to be taken seriously.
One balm for the winter blues is physical activity, preferably outdoors. Unfortunately, we too often struggle to find the time for such pursuits. So a holiday in February might make time for many.
Of course, a holiday could also be a boost to the local economy and tourism industry if we’re looking to add fuel to the fire. Did you take note of all those out-of-town plates in Montreal over the weekend? Many visitors from the province next door spent their Family Day weekend here.
Our own version could help Quebec’s ski hills, Nordic spas and museums, too. We could even schedule our Family Day for a different date, to avoid crowds or just to be distinct. The exact timing doesn’t really matter.
Nor does the name.
Whether we call it a mental health day or Hibernation Day or Get Outside and Play Day, the point is we’re all in need of a rest to gather our strength, marshal our resolve and push through to spring — which is still a dim light flickering at the far end of the tunnel.