I’ve always been a tad uncomfortable with the forced patriotism of “Canada Day.”

Flag-waving and nationalistic chest thumping runs contrary to the Canadian national character.

Canadians pride themselves on their understated, low-key, practical nature. We aren’t a terribly flamboyant or excitable people. (Unless there’s a hockey game.)

We don’t wear our pride on our sleeve and we don’t wave flags to express who we are, even though in our hearts we do know who we are.

So how does a low-key, quiet, polite Canadian express pride and patriotism on a day like this.

I would say that our strongest  expression of our Canadian-ness is our conviction of what we are not: American.

To the non-North American we appear similar to Americans in look, language and lifestyle. We are often mistaken in the same way that Austrians are mistaken for Germans or Kiwis for Aussies. (I would challenge your average Canadian to distinguish an Austrian from a German.)

But as Canadians we, protest vigourously. We are not American, we say. We are Canadian.

This is what makes us Canadian. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a heart-felt and genuine expression of who we are. Or aren’t.

But that doesn’t look good at government-sponsored picnics and celebrations. And this is where is gets ironic because these celebrations are a genuinely American way of celebrating nationhood: flag-waving, anthem singing and hand-on-heart sentimentality.

That’s the American way. That is not the Canadian way. Yet almost by default, we adopt the ways of a nation we are eager to distinguish ourselves from.

I find this funny and endearing in a sort of awkward way.

I hope we are always a tad uncomfortable with the “forced celebrations” on this day.

It’s what makes us Canadian.

So Happy, er, Canada Day.