A Little Background

So what are Natal Days? We have heard the term, but where did it come from?
The Lions Canteen is a Familiar Site at Annapolis Royal Natal Days, Annapolis Valley
The term "natal" is derived from the Latin word for birth and, hence, Natal Day is the official “birthday” of the provinces.

At CanadaInfo - Symbols, Facts and Listings it shows that the holiday on the first Monday in August in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island is named Natal Day - "A holiday of celebration of the origins and birth of the particular province and it is normally a family oriented holiday with parades and fireworks and public displays." Although this is not recognized as a civic holiday in these provinces you will find that most businesses are closed on this day and the stores that are open are at reduced hours.

So why does Annapolis Royal name it's birthday celebration that? It is not a Province.

Well Annapolis Royal served as the first capital of the Colony of Nova Scotia from 1710 until the founding of Halifax in 1749. Therefore we are celebrating the birthday of Nova Scotia, you could say of Canada.
The Town Crier is a Big Part of the Annapolis Royal Natal Days, Annapolis Valley
I am not exactly sure what year the celebrations started in Annapolis Royal, but the Princess Pageant held during the weekend to crown the new Queen Annapolis Royal has been held since 1945. I have read about the Annapolis Royal Gala Days Celebration before that, back to about the turn of the century, and I would not be surprised if it goes back farther than that.

In the early days of the celebration St. George Street would be decorated with huge flags and banners. Some of the main events would be on the water with boat & canoe races, swim meets, parade of sails and demonstrations. On land there would be a parade, sports, competitions, music by the Annapolis Bands and lots of food.

Because many battles had been fought between the French & British in Port Royal, and the presence of the Fort Anne, many of the events for Natal Days had a bit of a military flare. After the opening of HMCS Cornwallis in 1942 many new events during Natal Days reflected the naval presence in town.

I can still remember the days when the boating regatta was held on the east side of the causeway, many with boats on loan from the Cornwallis Boat Shed located on Hog Island. The banks all along the causeway and river would be full with spectators watching the many races and competitions.
Sea Cadets from Camp Acadia Marching to Fort Anne for the Sunset Ceremony at the Annapolis Royal Natal Days

Sun Set Ceremony

One of the longest-running and popular events during Natal Days is the Sun Set Ceremony. Thousands fill the hillsides surrounding the Garrison Parade Square at Fort Anne every year to watch this ceremony put on by the Acadia Sea Cadet Camp at Cornwallis Park.

It is one of the events I look forward to the most every year. There is just something that gets you when you watch the precision of these young cadets. Here is an explanation of the meaning of this old traditional ceremony.

Simple duties of centuries ago, such as the closing of the town’s gate, troops returning to their quarters for the night, and the setting of the watch – all to the beat of the drum – have evolved into a beautiful ceremonial tradition reflecting a long military heritage.

The sunset ceremony is a combination of three distinct ceremonies that are part of Canada’s military history: the ancient ceremony of beating Retreat, the Tattoo, and the lowering of the National Flag of Canada. The ceremony is often preceded by other military displays and military music, and usually includes the firing of the ‘Feu-de-Joie.
Sea Cadets From Camp Acadia Preform the Annual Sunset Ceremony at the Annapolis Royal Natal Days Celebration
The Retreat - The origin of the beating of Retreat is obscure, and some historians believe that it dates back to the Crusades when it was the signal to cease fighting at sunset. Different drumbeats were used to convey orders, and these beats were well understood by every soldier.

There were two retreats; one was the retreat at sundown; the other, a tactical maneuver in battle. Later, when the drums became confused with the sound of gunfire, bugles were added.

Today’s ceremony echoes that of the 16th Century. Most towns were fortified, with agricultural activity taking place outside the walls. At sunset, a call was sounded to summon the guard for the night and warn everyone that the gates would be closing.

This whole process was originally called La Retraite and later became the Retreat Call, which was also carried out in early Canadian settlements.
The Feu-de-joie at the Annapolis Royal Natal Days Sunset Ceremony
The Tattoo - In the days before permanent barracks, troops in garrison or on the march were billeted on the town in private houses or in inns and alehouses. In order to get the troops back to their billets for the night, drummers were sent through the streets to sound the ‘Tattoo.’ The word ‘tattoo’ is derived from the Dutch word ‘taptoe,’ which means, literally, to ‘close the tap.’

The Few-de-Joie - Following the Retreat and Tattoo, the night guard was mounted. Before the sentries were posted, the soldiers fired, or proved, their muskets to ensure that they were in good working condition and cleared of damp charges for the night. As armies became more modern and the tradition of mounting Guards became obsolete, the tradition of proving soldiers’ weapons was kept and incorporated into what is today called ‘Feu-de-Joie,’ or ‘Fire of Joy.’

Regimental Encampment

Another event that has become a regular part of the Natal Days celebration is the Regimental Encampment set up on the Garrison Parade Square at Fort Anne. This is put on by the 84th of Foot Regimental Association of Kennetcook, Nova Scotia. Here is a little bit about this organization and the encampment taken from their web site.

84th Regiment of Foot 2nd Battalion Regimental Association

Demonstration of Period Firing During Military Encampment on the Fort Anne Grounds for the Annapolis Royal Natal Days Celebration
This Association is a volunteer, non-profit organization, dedicated to the research, preservation and authentic recreation of Highland military regiment and camp as it existed in Nova Scotia during the American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1783).

As living history re-enactors, association members strive to maintain a high standard of authenticity in re-creating all aspects of military and civilian life. They devote many hours to the research of original artifacts and primary documents as well as learning many long-since forgotten 18th century life-skills.

Re-enacting members of the association come from diverse walks of life and from all over Nova Scotia. Membership often comes from whole families, since family units were sometimes together in the army of the 18th century. The association also includes supportive associate members from all over North America. Most of these members are direct descendants of soldiers who served in the original 84th Regiment of Foot."

It is very interesting to see them set up in their camp, and they are happy to answer any questions you may have about them and what they are doing. They are set up from Saturday until Sunday afternoon and offer several demonstrations while here. They also take an active part in the rest of the celebrations happening in town that weekend, still dressed up in their costumes.
Celebrations Come to a Close with Firewarks During the Annapolis Royal Natal Days Celebrations

Natal Days Schedule of Events

Here is a sample schedule of events taken from different years of the Annapolis Natal Days. I am going to use this schedule as most of the events are annual events and will most likely be held again on the same days each yesr.

Please check for an up-dated schedule of events each year closer to the celebrations to get times and locations.


Coronation Ceremony at the 2006 Annapolis Royal Natal Days Celbrations
  • Yard Sale
  • Art Show & Sale
  • Lion's Club Canteen
  • Acadian Heritage Tour
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Youth Dance
  • Opening Ceremonies
  • Karaoke Contest Finals


  • Farmer's & Trader's Market
  • Home Hardware Yard Sale
  • Fun Run
  • St. Luke's Annual Yard Sale & Hot Dog Sale
    Annapolis Royal Fire Truck in the Annapolis Royal Natal Day Parade, Annapolis Valley
  • Full Breakfast
  • Art Show & Sale
  • Natal Day Soccer Tournament
  • Regimental Encampment
  • Teddy Bear's Tea
  • Lion's Club Canteen
  • Music for the Little Ones
  • Lequille Country Store Mackerel Derby
  • Music & Children's Activities
  • Motorcycle Roll Past
  • Fire Dept. Aux. Princess Tea & Fashion Show
  • Lobster Crate Race
  • Native & Gardening Workshop
  • Judging & Prizes for Scavenger Hunt
    A Float in the Annapolis Royal Natal Day Parade, Annapolis Valley


  • Annual Firefighter's Pancake Breakfast
  • Regimental Encampment
  • Natal Day Soccer Tournament
  • Art Show & Sale
  • Lion's Club Canteen
  • Tractor Show
  • Horseshoe Tournament
  • Princesses to Attend Church Service
  • Music & Children's Activities
  • Lunchtime BBQ
  • Tractor Parade
  • Bubble Gum Blowing Contest
  • Doubles Tennis Tournament
  • Lobster Crate Race
  • Community Spirit Band Concert
  • Ecumenical Service
  • Scotiabank Coronation Ceremony
  • Sunset Ceremonies & Beating Retreat
  • Jam Session
  • Candlelight Graveyard Tour
  • Fireworks
    Annapolis Royal Natal Day Celebrations Feature Lots of Bands and Entertainment


  • Firefighter's Pancake Breakfast
  • Family Day in the Gardens
  • Art Show & Sale
  • Lion's Club Canteen
  • Farmers & Traders Market
  • Children's Parade
  • Home Hardware BBQ
  • St. Luke's Annual Yard Sale & Hot Dog Sale
  • Children's Birthday Party
  • Grand Street Parade
  • Tape Measuring Race & Nail Driving Contest
  • Presentation of Float Winners
  • National Historic Tour
  • Annual Mini Golf Tournament
  • 2008 Royal Party will Play Mini Putt
  • Anna. Royal Golf & Country Club - Supper BBQ
  • Beach Volleyball Fun Tournament
  • Tennis Ball Race
  • Gardenfest Dance

    As you can see there is lots to see and do during the Annapolis Royal Natal Days celebrations. I was on this committee for several years and I know first hand how much work goes into putting these events together. Again the volunteers who work so hard at all our many Annapolis Festivals really deserve applause. One of the best ways to thank them is by going out and participating in as much as you can and help make every event a big success.

For this years schedule of events and dates check out the Town of Annapolis Royal website.


Leave the Annapolis Royal Natal Days Page to go look at other great Annapolis Valley Community Festivals.


Or return to the Annapolis Valley Summer Events Page to see what else is happening in the Annapolis Valley