What is Heritage Day and why do we celebrate it?

April 5, 2022


Susan Hodges

The history of this holiday, and how you and your family can celebrate this long weekend.

What is Heritage Day and why do we celebrate it?

Newcomers to Nova Scotia often ask why we celebrate Heritage Day, and what is there to do over the weekend to recognize it?  Heritage Day in Nova Scotia is a celebration of the diverse cultural heritage of the province. This annual holiday has been officially recognized since 2015 and is observed on the third Monday of February, in 2024 that date is February 19th. The day honors a different individual or group each year, chosen for their significant contribution to the province's heritage.

2024 will mark the 165th anniversary of William Hall being awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the first person of African descent and the third Canadian to be presented with this distinguished award. This remarkable historical milestone adds a deeper layer of significance to the Heritage Day celebrations in Halifax, making it an especially notable occasion.

The celebration of Heritage Day is deeply rooted in the province's history. Nova Scotia has a rich tapestry of cultural traditions, influenced by Indigenous, African Nova Scotian, Acadian, Scottish, Irish, and many other heritages. Each of these has made invaluable contributions to the development and identity of the region.

The idea of having a specific day to celebrate and acknowledge this diverse heritage gained traction in the early 2000s. The concept of “Family Day” was first introduced in the province of Alberta in 1990, thanks to the efforts of the Alberta Federation of Labour, following that other provinces’ included statutory holidays in February for variety of reasons. Nova Scotia subsequently followed suit and officially established their new holiday, Heritage Day, in 2015.  Since then, each year has been dedicated to honoring a different aspect of Nova Scotia's vibrant heritage. Past honorees have included notable historical figures, civil rights activists, artists, and community leaders, all of whom have left a lasting impact on the province.

The celebration of Heritage Day serves as an opportunity for reflection and education, as well as a time for communities to come together and celebrate their shared history. It also provides an occasion for people to learn about each other's cultures, fostering a greater sense of unity and mutual respect.

Ultimately, Heritage Day is celebrated to promote an understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of Nova Scotia, honoring the past while embracing the present and looking forward to a future of inclusivity and diversity, making 2024 a particularly remarkable year with the upcoming 165th anniversary of William Hall's Victoria Cross award being a central point of focus.

What can you and your family and friends do over the long weekend to honour this day?  Consider one of the following:

Heritage Day celebrations – check out this link for celebrations throughout the weekend in a variety of locations across the province

The following cultural museums will be open free of charge on February 19th:  Natural History Museum, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic ,and the Museum of Industry.

There are other celebrations such as concerts and winter festivals, check out this link for more information.


To learn more about past and future honourees see this link. To find out what holidays are coming up in 2024 visit this link.


Have a wonderful long weekend and get out to embrace the winter weather!

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