A little early on the Flashback Friday this month, but the timing was appropriate! Read on to see how celebrating the 4th of July in Canada ended up being one of my fondest memories from the summer of 2011.
Have you ever celebrated a holiday away from home? I’m not talking about heading to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, but rather being away from friends and family – or even your own country – on a day filled with traditions.
From 2009 to 2011, I spent my summers working as a tour director and traveling back and forth between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory. Half of my tours began in Anchorage, where my new group of guests arrived for an international road trip that ended 1,200+ miles later at their cruise ship in Skagway. There, as my first group prepared to sail off into the sunset (or, more accurately, the Inside Passage), my next group would disembark from the same ship and we would head back west toward Anchorage.
This ping-ponging back and forth across the US/Canadian border quickly became old hat, and for the most part, it didn’t much matter which country I was in at any given time. The exception to that, however, was the first week of July. Canadians celebrate Canada Day on July 1, and Americans tear it up on July 4 for Independence Day. As you can imagine, it was always better to be in the right country on the right holiday to take advantage of local celebrations, the festive atmosphere, and everyone’s overall good mood.
In 2011, my tour itinerary had me in opposite countries for each holiday. We were slated to spend Canada Day traveling from Fairbanks to Tok, Alaska, and then Independence Day would take us from Dawson City to Whitehorse, Yukon. I’ve always loved the 4th of July, so it was a bummer to know that I would be spending it in a place where it was just another day. Although my tour was mostly filled with Americans (forty-two of them, to be exact), I also had two Canadian guests who were probably feeling similarly bummed about spending Canada Day in the USA.
That’s when I got an idea.
Before we left Fairbanks – the last town of any size we’d see until Whitehorse – I stocked up on patriotic American decor. I bought crepe paper, big shining stars, streamers, and tape. I also borrowed a big Canadian flag from my (wannabe Canadian) friend Curtis. The next day, Canada Day, I hung the flag proudly at the very front of the tour bus and made a big deal about celebrating with our Canadian couple. The whole group got really into it, and the Canadian wife even sang “O Canada” in English and French on the microphone to enthusiastic applause.
A few days later, I conspiratorially asked our Driver/Guide if he wouldn’t mind meeting me just a little early on the morning of the 4th of July. Then, I giddily unleashed my patriotic spirit on the inside of the tour bus:
My guests loved it. As it turned out, many of them had also been a little disappointed about being in another country for such a fun American holiday. The mood as we set off for Whitehorse was jubilant, and two girls – the lone teenagers on a tour mostly filled with senior citizens – came up to the microphone to sing the Star-Spangled Banner.
And the best part? My Canadian couple were the most celebratory of all. They were so touched by the fuss we had made over them on Canada Day that they showed up on July 4th in gaudy American flag hats. I have no idea where they bought them, but they wore them proudly for the rest of our trip – including the group photo.
Celebrating the 4th of July in Canada ended up being one of my memories from that summer. It’s amazing what a little crepe paper and patriotic spirit can do!
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