There are many things to confuse a Canadian who finds himself living in London. The cars drive on the other side of the street, the language — despite being the same language — is entirely different, the accents can be hard to understand, and the names of too many places are either not pronounced in the way they are spelled, or a bit too full of innuendo.
All of these things are easy to deal with. If you fail to die in the first week, you grow quickly accustomed to cars coming at you from the “wrong” direction. Your ear tunes to the accent, your vocabulary embraces the local dialect, and you learn not to giggle every time you hear “Cockfosters”.
And then there’s the holidays.
The United Kingdom has most of the same holidays — both official and unofficial — as Canada does. They do Mayday instead of Labour Day. They do not have the “family day” in February, or Canada Day. Their August holiday is at the end of the month, rather than the start.
New Year’s, Easter and Christmas all happen on the same dates as in Canada. The unofficial ones — Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween — all happen on the same date as in Canada. As you would expect. Father’s Day is always the third Sunday in June.
And then there’s Mother’s Day.
In Canada, it always occurs on the second Sunday of May. But in the UK it happens … on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Let’s let that sink in for a second here … the fourth Sunday of Lent. When is that?
The answer, after some deliberation, is two weeks before Easter. But who came up with this system? As an atheist of Jewish upbringing, I do not have a strong tie-in with Lent. I know that Easter is supposed to align with Passover, but occurs on a weekend, and that Mother’s Day is two weeks before Easter, and … you may note that the logic to determine Mother’s Day is getting a bit convoluted.
No matter, though, because the card shops certainly give one plenty of warning that the most card-worthy of all holidays is approaching. The question then becomes what to do about it.
Do I call my mother and grandmother on the UK Mother’s Day? Won’t they then be a little bit confused when I wish them a “Happy Mother’s Day”? I would think so.
Do I then wait until mid-May to make that same phone call, and hope that I realise that it’s Mother’s Day when the day arrives?
Do I attempt both?
When I first moved to the UK, I was caught unawares by the early Mother’s Day. I made the assumption that I had forgotten when Mother’s Day was, and made the calls on UK Mother’s Day, surprising my Mom in the process.
The second year, I decided to call on both days. The logic goes that I am reminded by my environment about the UK mother’s day, but not about the Canadian one. So I am likely to forget the latter, but unlikely to forget the former. So I would try to call on the Canadian day, but if I forget to do so I have already called.
I am a sneaky, sneaky child.
These days, thanks to Twitter (and too much time spent on Twitter), I am certain to see the bazillion “Happy Mother’s Day” messages on Canadian Mother’s Day. It coincides with the American version, so it will be a trending topic. I will know, and will be able to make the calls.
But now Karen’s a mother too. And she has a mother. And they are both French. And their Mother’s Day is on neither the British or Canadian days, but on the last Sunday in May.
I just can’t win.