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.

 

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

Just Posted

BREAKING: West Fraser announces indefinite closure of Chasm

The third shift for the 100 Mile House location will also be eliminated

Enviro Club prepares for Wells Grey Provincial Park adventure

Recently students were out on Williams Lake brushing up on their canoe skills

Ranch Musings: Rebuilding ranching culture and learning to let go

Weekly column from local rancher David Zirnhelt

Williams Lake principal honoured with Governor General’s Medal

Shirley Giroux graduated from UNBC with her PhD in Health Sciences

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Most Read