Williams Lake has celebrated the unique civic holiday of ‘Wrestling Day’ since the 1930s. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin)

Williams Lake has celebrated the unique civic holiday of ‘Wrestling Day’ since the 1930s. (Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin)

Wrestling Day holiday a time-honoured tradition in Williams Lake

The New Years Eve parties were so good in the 1930s folks needed an extra day to recuperate

One of Williams Lake’s most unique claims to fame is the fact the city has maintained a day-after-New Years Day holiday for almost nine decades — Wrestling Day.

The civic holiday of Wrestling Day on Jan. 2 is a time-honoured tradition dating back to the 1930s after a couple of prominent residents decided they needed an extra day to rest and recuperate from the fun of New Year’s Eve festivities.

As the story goes, friends Syd Western and department store owner Alistair Mackenzie sat quietly in downtown Williams Lake sipping their coffees.

No one was around. The streets were empty. Not much was happening. But, strangely enough, a tiny group of about 10 village merchants were open — their stores empty, also.

It struck Western, the chair of the village commission, and Mackenzie as odd — especially on a day neither man felt like doing anything, either.

Western and Mackenzie’s conversation branched out logically enough. It was a waste of time to open a business on that day, they concluded. And, if Boxing Day followed Christmas then surely Wrestling Day should follow New Year’s Day. It made perfect sense.

Everyone in the village was “wrestling” a hangover, anyway, they argued.

“I must have been half cut,” Western told the Vancouver Sun during an interview on Jan. 2, 1992, at 94 years old. “Oh, that crazy day.

“I’m not a publicity hound, but I’m proud of what I’ve done.”

Western used his position as village commissioner to bring credibility to the unique holiday. And soon “everybody was in on it,” he continued.

It became a habit, despite not being an official holiday. Every year, all of the downtown merchants agreed to close their doors. The town would shut down. Everyone took it easy for one extra well-deserved day off.

Read More: Haphazard History – Street names of Williams Lake

Wrestling Day, though its actual anniversary has been a topic of some debate, is now an official civic holiday and tradition, and has been since 1959. Only for a brief stint in the 1970s was the holiday abolished by the mayor of the day.

Williams Lake had grown in population in the ’70s, larger businesses had moved to town and times had begun to change. Big businesses ignored the holiday, remaining open. Other local outlets simply began to follow suit and ignored it, also.

Tom Mason, Williams Lake mayor in 1977, cast the deciding vote declaring an end to the celebration of Wrestling Day.

“Wrestling Day was a cute thing,” he told the Tribune at the time. “But as time moves along cute things are no longer cute.”

The decision didn’t sit well with many of the town’s citizens. Wrestling Day’s hiatus was short, and the next year the holiday was reinstated.

Since then, there’s always been a Wrestling Day, which has been supported and proclaimed as an official civic holiday by multiple city councils since.

To date, sticking to its humble roots, there is no community event scheduled to coincide with Wrestling Day.

Western and Mackenzie, no doubt, would be proud.

Although increasingly more businesses choose to open their doors on Wrestling Day, many still do tip their hat to the spirit of the holiday.

With files from the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Downtown Williams Lake is still pretty sleepy on Wrestling Day, 2019. Angie Mindus photo

Downtown Williams Lake is still pretty sleepy on Wrestling Day, 2019. Angie Mindus photo

Just Posted

(Photo submitted)
MISSING: Alexis Creek RCMP request help in finding Randolph Quilt, 59

Quilt hasn’t been heard from by family since Sept. 26, last seen in Williams Lake

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson (right) with his partner Shelley Wiese participated in an BC Liberals Caucus virtual oath ceremony Friday, Nov. 27. Doerkson was appointed opposition critic of rural development by interim leader Shirley Bond. (Photo submitted)
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA appointed rural development opposition critic

Newly-elected Lorne Doerkson said it will be an honour to work for all rural consituents

The exposure occurred on 24th, 25th, & 26th November 2020, and affects Grade 7, 8, 9, 10 (file photo)
COVID-19 case confirmed at Acwsalcta School in Bella Coola

The exposure occurred on 24th, 25th, and 26th Nov. 2020, and affects Grade 7, 8, 9, 10.

Yunesit'in Chief Lennon Solomon signs a memorandum of understanding with COS Insp. Len Butler. The five-year agreement was signed outside the Tsilhqot'in National Government in downtown Williams Lake on Nov. 30. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Yunesit’in Government, Conservation Officer Service team up to address illegal moose hunting

Protection of moose a key focus of recently signed memorandum of understanding

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Interior Health said its new toll-free line will help people connect to health-care services. (File)
Interior Health expands toll-free line to improve access to community care

By calling1-800-707-8550, people can be connected to several health-care services

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read