Every year around July 1st in Newfoundland someone feels the need to dump a bucket of cold salt water on top of Newfoundlanders’ Canada Day celebrations and writes about how the holiday is not the same in Newfoundland because it is the anniversary of Beaumont Hamel and before joining Canada the day was a holiday to remember those who died that day and during the Great War. Many will often claim that this casts a pall over the holiday which prevents Newfoundlanders from enjoying it like the rest of Canada. This is nonsense.
If Newfoundland had decided to join Germany instead of Canada, and Germany’s national holiday was July 1st, than July 1st would unquestionably be a bittersweet holiday in this province. Beaumont Hamel was a terrible tragedy, but no Canadians killed any Newfoundlanders that day. As terrible a tragedy as it was, most Newfoundlanders have the ability to go to a commemoration ceremony in the morning and still be capable of getting together for drinks and fireworks that same evening.
Newfoundlanders like celebrating. If you give us a day off and some fireworks we’ll be all over it no matter what day it falls on. Anyone who tries to suggest that they can’t get in the mood to celebrate because of a tragedy that occurred a century ago is simply being disingenuous and also misrepresenting this history they are purporting to honour.
If there is one defining characteristic of the Newfoundlanders who lived in the era of the First World War it was the ability to shrug off terrible tragedies. At that time, most Newfoundlanders would have had multiple children die in childbirth or in infancy, and had lost at least one close family member to drowning at sea or tuberculosis. Losing someone in the war was for many at the time one of series of tragedies they faced throughout their lives. Yet Newfoundlanders in that era did not let tragedy prevent them from celebrating. In fact it was the opposite. In the face of all this tragedy and hardship Newfoundlanders took every chance they had to party and make music and celebrate whatever joy was there to be found.
Aside from dwelling on Beaumont Hamel, many will also make a point of focusing on everything that has gone wrong since confederation. If you took a Beaumont Hamel survivor from 1917 and transported him 100 years into the future he would think we are all living in a paradise greater than he could have ever imagined and tell us to stop complaining an go enjoy the fireworks.