We celebrate some elements of family in British life. We recognise Christmas Day as a time to spend with family and enjoy a public holiday in which to do it. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day recognise the contribution parents make to society. But the family unit itself does not get as much as a party popper or home-made banner.

Our cousins across the north Atlantic in Canada however do things a little differently. They recognise the family and the majority of them get a day off to celebrate it.

Family Day in Canada

Family Day Canada sledging
Family Day in Canada – sledging is definitely an option

Several provinces in Canada – accounting for nearly 2/3 of the population – celebrate ‘Family Day’ in February. For most Canadians it is a statutory public holiday. Its aim is quite simple: to remind Canadians that it is important to spend time with family and to reinforce family values.

First established in the province of Alberta in 1990, Family Day is now celebrated in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. Typically falling on National Heritage Day adds additional meaning as families therefore tend to do a bit of digging in to their family history. Special day trips and excursions are common. Whatever Canadians do on Family Day, spending time with loved ones is the only ‘rule’.

Given how vitally important the family is to the very fabric of society, should we not do something to recognise that fact over here too?

Family may have changed but it is still vitally important

Families in 21st century Britain take various forms. Whilst the definition of what you or I consider to be our family may differ, the underlying value of the family unit is the same. Family is a safe place of support, care and protection for the vast majority of people.

Family is the bedrock upon which society is built. Studies continue to demonstrate links between the breakdown of families and various societal ills from poverty to substance abuse and young lives blighted well in to adulthood. Conversely, the stability of a family unit helps children thrive and become productive contributors to society.

In isolation the importance of family makes it hard to understand why it is not something we revere, protect and celebrate.

Mothers Day Family Day
We have Mother’s Day & Father’s Day – why no Family Day?

Celebrate family on your own time

Politicians have for decades talked of the value of the family unit and its importance to society. All too often such talk tends to focus on promoting  one type of family unit as trumping all others. Or ends up being nothing more than rhetoric. In practice there is little celebration or protection of the concept of family. No matter what form it takes.

Family will not be cherished if we don’t value it

When society as a whole offers no discernible attitude of respect for and positivity towards a concept, how can anyone expect it to be cherished?

We could learn a lot from the Family Day holiday in Canada. The family unit is vital to the effective functioning of society. Therefore it should be treated as such. Not just with words in speeches but in deeds and actions.

A national Family Day would be a great place to start.


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