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What is “Moving Day” in Quebec?

Moving Day is a Quebeçois tradition on July 1st that dates back to the mid-1700s, and continues to bring mayhem to the province, year after year.
By · July 9, 2024
What is “Moving Day” in Quebec?

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While Most Canadians are celebrating Canada Day on July 1st, citizens of Quebec look at the first of July in a different light. For the Quebeçois, July 1st is known as “Moving Day”, a long-standing tradition where yearly rental leases come to an end and an unusually high number of renters in Quebec decide to move.

Moving Day has also existed in other cities, outside of Quebec. New York and Chicago had their Moving Days on May 1st, while Boston continues to have a Moving Day on September 1st.

The History of Quebec’s Moving Day

Back in the mid-1700s, Quebec was called New France and was controlled by the French colonial government. In the spirit of humanitarianism and compassion for tenant farmers, the government created the tradition of Moving Day to prevent farmers from being evicted while winter snow was still on the ground.

According to historian Yvon Desloges, moving residences in the spring was a common practice in the 18th century, and sociologist Jean-Philippe Warren noted that May 1st was the starting date set by French law for all legal agreements, including leases.

It's interesting to note how many cultures around the world have their various calendar years start in the springtime, coinciding with new growth and feelings of renewal and new beginnings. It only makes sense that there would be a date set in the spring for legal agreements to begin at this time.

Eventually, urban leases were required to start on May 1 and end on April 30, as set in the Civil Code of Lower Canada of 1866. May 1 officially became "Moving Day" in Quebec.

Moving Day changed dates in 1973, when the Quebec government moved it to July 1st, so children could finish their school year before having to move locations. Also, the weather in July is much more conducive to moving as opposed to early May when it can still be quite wet and cold (and even snowy) in Quebec.

Moving day detracts from the importance of Canada day, as so many people are busy moving. While many people may assume that the switch from May 1st to July 1st was intentional, the original change was introduced by a federalist, not a sovereigntist. That being said, most Quebec residents place more value on the Quebec National Holiday on June 24th, where they can celebrate their distinct French identity.

How Quebec’s Moving Day Affects Quebeçois Society

It’s no surprise that moving companies have come to appreciate and also dread Moving Day every year. While the companies get to line up clients months in advance, and also charge higher rates (up to an increase of 250% for their hourly rates), they also are aware that this time of year involves a lot of added stress. The stress is always worth it as the companies can make up to 15% of their annual revenue on a single day.

Just under half of all Montreal residents are renters. Moving day becomes madness for renters and moving companies alike, for obvious reasons such as shortages of moving service providers. Less obvious reasons for the madness include the fact that many Montreal apartments have exterior staircases, making it extra challenging to move larger, heavier items. Unlike the rest of Canada, but similar to many other countries, Montreal apartments rarely come with their own kitchen appliances. If you haven’t had to move a refrigerator up a flight of stairs, consider yourself lucky.

Municipalities respond to the moving mayhem by scheduling extra garbage and recycling pickups for unwanted furniture and empty packing boxes that are left on curbs.

Pet abandonment is a serious issue on Moving Day. There’s a shortage of pet-friendly rentals in Canada (as well as the rest of the global North) and renters often have to surrender their animals to local shelters. If you live in Quebec and are considering donating to animal shelters, the days surrounding July 1st are a good time to do it.

Back in 2009, more than 700,000 households moved, and over a third of them were Montreal residents.

Sometimes extreme situations result in positive innovations and outcomes. An evolution of sorts has blossomed in the Montreal moving industry: the introduction of “green moving”. Ambitious bicyclists with robust bike trailers have now started their own moving companies, in turn making moving more environmental. These cyclists get to enjoy the benefits of being self-employed and participating in the city's gig economy.

Fun Fact! Moving Day has impacted Quebeçois culture and society in such a significant way that it has appeared in the province’s literature, music and cinema, including Gabrielle Roy’s novel “Bonheur D’Occasion” and the comedy film about Moving Day, “Premier Juillet”.

Quebec’s Moving Day: Positive Outcomes

Despite being chaotic and sometimes problematic, the tradition of Moving Day has a few positive contributions to Quebec society:

  • Moving companies have guaranteed business every year at the time of Moving Day.

  • Renters don’t have to move during the freezing winter months.

  • Green moving companies can benefit from the extra work.

  • Moving companies can charge higher rates at this time and provide extra work to employees.

  • Families don’t have to deal with moving during the children’s school year.

  • Families have a couple of months to adjust to a new neighbourhood and/or community before the next school year begins.

  • Bargain hunters and low-income residents benefit from furniture being left behind after a move and offered for free on curbsides all over Quebec.

  • Moving Day can be a bonding experience; many renters forgo moving companies and ask their friends for help, often in exchange for pizza and beer.

Tips For Navigating Moving Day in Quebec

If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of Quebec residents that has to move on July 1st, here are some tips to make the process as easy as possible for you and your chosen moving company:

  • Have Top Move help you book your moving company months in advance. Ideally you can book the movers at least 3 months ahead of time. If you are feeling overwhelmed with choices or are concerned about price gouging, Top Move can help you find the best available moving companies at the best prices.

  • Declutter. Just like with travel, less is more; be ruthless when sorting and donating belongings.

  • Pack cardboard boxes mindfully. Remember that movers will likely be climbing stairs with your boxes. Make their lives easier by not overpacking the boxes and potentially causing an accident.

  • Change your address in advance. Government bodies also get overwhelmed around Moving Day time. If you can, make your address changes as early as possible.

  • If you can, try not to move on July 1st!

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