Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest battles of the First World War. It is also Canada Day, celebrating Canadian Confederation in 1867. It is also Shark Week, and today also marks the hundredth anniversary of the first Jersey Shore shark attack, an actual shark attack that killed four people, and which author Peter Benchley insists did not inspire his novel Jaws despite the similarities.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadian soldiers fought in the First World War decades after the 1867 British North America Act united Britain’s colonies in North America (though as a U.S. citizen I’m obligated to clarify that Britain united what was left of their North American colonies after Americans “voted” to leave the Empire). The Great War brought together soldiers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Senegal, and numerous other parts of the world.
I’m not sure how many sharks fought in the Great War, or were even involved. This was, after all, one of the first wars in which submarines were used. Perhaps the British Shark Fusiliers fought off several German submarines. Maybe a platoon of sharks defended Gallipoli. Certainly Canadian sharks must have joined to defend the Commonwealth.
How traditions last is unpredictable. I don’t know how we arrived at the yearly celebration of Shark Week. I don’t know which World War One battles will be commemorated and which ones won’t. How will Americans remember the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution next year? Will Shark Week be replaced with Bear Fortnight? Will the recent Brexit vote be remembered at all in coming years? Will we soon have a holiday for Alexander Hamilton?
Traditions are fickle and more malleable than we recognize, so happy Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China! Also, Happy Somali Independence Day! And Happy Anniversary of the Commencement of the State Bank of Pakistan!