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According to many historians, the maple leaf became a Canadian symbol as far back as 1834 when the first French Catholic St. Jean Baptiste Society in North America made the maple leaf its emblem. Already by 1836, the newspaper, Le Canadien published in French Canada (Lower Canada as it was called at the time), suggested that this leaf be the symbol of Canada. Similarly, in 1848, the literary annual called the Maple Leaf based in Toronto also wrote how the maple leaf should be a symbol for Canada.

Soon thereafter Ontario and Quebec adopted the maple leaf on their respective flags. In 1867 the song “Maple Leaf Forever” composed by Alexander Muir was our national anthem until “Oh Canada” officially replaced it in 1964. We also had the maple leaf on all monetary coins until 1901. Up until the cessation of the penny (1 cent) in 2012, the maple leaf adorned that too.

On February 15, 1965, the red maple leaf flag was officially inaugurated as the National Flag of Canada. The maple leaf on the flag is a generic maple, representing the 10 species of maple trees native to Canada.

It is from the sugar maple that we make maple syrup and it is the leaf of the sugar maple that adorns the Canadian national flag, also unofficially known as the Maple Leaf and l’Unifolié (French for “the one-leafed”). It consists of a red field with a white square at its centre in the ratio of 1:2:1, in the middle of which is featured a stylized, red, 11-pointed maple leaf. The red banners are meant to represent the oceans on either side of our huge country.

As we see, the history of the maple leaf and the maple tree has deep roots in Canadian history and culture. We adorn it formally around the world, at formal sports events. And you can pick the Canadian backpacker out from the crowd quite quickly.

Plus, where else can you have your emblem and eat it too?

Rachel Annette

Author Rachel Annette

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