Commonwealth Day is a celebration held during the second day of March every year. It celebrates the Commonwealth of Nations. However, the actual day usually varies every year. Commonwealth Day will be held on March 8, The date is marked and pronounced by an Anglican service in Westminster Abbey. It is normally attended by Queen Elizabeth II who is the Head of the Commonwealth along with the secretary-general and high commissioners in London.
The usual happening is that the Queen delivers an address to the commonwealth, which is broadcasted worldwide. Some parts of the Commonwealth celebrate the day as a holiday. But in Britain, it is not a holiday. To learn more about this day including its history, how it is celebrated, and customs in different parts of the world, then you should continue reading below.
Commonwealth Day History: Empire Day
Queen Victoria is one of the most prominent figures in world history because of her extensive power back during her reigns as Queen. After her death on January 2, 1901, her birthday on May 24 was declared as Empire Day. this started on May 24, 1902. However, such an event was not officially recognized until 1916. This event was instituted in the United Kingdom by Lord Meath in 1905. Such celebration then got extended throughout the countries that constitute the Commonwealth.
Empire Day was regarded as a symbol of unity among people who have the ideals of justice, freedom, and tolerance – ideals that the British empire propagated all over the world.
Empire Day then became a major event. School parades for it even started, in 1925, about 90,000 people attended a thanksgiving service held at Wembley Stadium during the Empire Day. it was then a part of the British Empire Exhibition.
The idea of celebrating the day was that the children would be reminded that they will always be a part of generations of people who built the British Empire. They must be reminded that the strength of the Empire depends on them since they will become the future of the generation.
An instrumental part of promoting Empire Day as a patriotic holiday was played by the British Empire League. The idea was that Empire Day goes through class boundaries and that after the first World War, the Empire day became a major part of people’s lives that it became a tradition to celebrate Empire Day each year.
Commonwealth Day History: Commonwealth Day
Harold Macmillan, who served as a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963, announced in the Parliament that Empire Day was to be renamed Commonwealth Day. This happened in 1958.
Britain and the countries constituting the Commonwealth were able to share cultural links, history, common legal systems, and business practices. in 1973, a proposal made by the Royal Commonwealth Society makes a Commonwealth Secretariat select the second Monday of March to be Commonwealth Day. On such a date, Commonwealth Day will be observed in all countries that constitute the Commonwealth.
Hence, to those people who are asking is Empire Day the same as Commonwealth Day? The simple answer is that yes they are the same. The essence, history, origin, and reason for the celebration are the same. The only difference is that Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day.
Observance of Commonwealth Day Around the World
As mentioned above, Commonwealth Day is celebrated by countries constituting the Commonwealth. Here, let us take a look at how Commonwealth Day is celebrated by approximately one billion people in the world.
Many people ask how does the United Kingdom celebrates Commonwealth Day? Basically, to mark Commonwealth Day, the Union Flag is flown from public buildings in the UK during the second Monday of March. The Scottish Parliament Building also flies the Commonwealth Flag. A special service at the Westminster Abbey is also attended by the Queen and the members of the Royal Family.
How is Commonwealth Day celebrated in Australia? In general, Commonwealth Day is not a national public holiday in Australia. There are various regional public holidays that coincide during this day which means that people still enjoy a day off. In the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra day is celebrated. In Victoria, Labor Day is celebrated. The Adelaide Cup is held in South Australia. In Tasmania, the Eight-hour Day is celebrated.
In particular, the 2006 Commonwealth Games was held in Melbourne where Queen Elizabeth II delivered her Commonwealth Day speech. It was held in St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney New South Wales, Australia.
Does Canada celebrate Commonwealth Day? Yes, Canada does celebrate Commonwealth Day. Usually, the Royal Union Flag or the Union Jack is flown with the Canadian national flag in military bases, airports, federal buildings, and other establishments in Canada to mark Commonwealth day. Such flags are flown from sunrise to sunset.
Canada is indeed a part of the Commonwealth. In 1964, the parliamentary resolutions which created the Maple Leaf flag retained the Royal Union Flag to make it an official symbol of the membership of Canada in the Commonwealth. It also symbolizes the allegiance of the country to the Crown.
Other countries that are also parts of the Commonwealth also celebrate the day. in Gibraltar, Commonwealth day is usually celebrated as a public holiday. In The Bahamas and Belize, Commonwealth Day is usually celebrated wherein schools hold special programs and assemblies that involve flag-raising ceremonies. And usually, the speech of the Queen for the Commonwealth Day is usually broadcasted. However, in Belize, Commonwealth Day is still celebrated on the 24th of May, tracing back to the history above.
There is also a country that celebrated Commonwealth day in the past – Hong Kong. This country celebrated Commonwealth Day as a school holiday before 1997. However, currently, it seems to be not celebrating the day anymore.
What are the Themes of the Commonwealth Day?
So how is Commonwealth Day celebrated? What are the themes during this special day? You might be asking these questions either because you are curious about how the day is celebrated or because you are a part of the people who celebrate this day and you want to know how to do it. Let us go through it since Commonwealth Day is just right around the corner. Knowing these things will enable you to understand better the essence of Commonwealth Day.
- Working Together – one of the major symbols of Commonwealth Day is people working together hand in hand for prosperity, growth, and development. The partnership is also a common theme because it involves two or several entities working together. Cooperation is an important concept underlying Commonwealth Day’s roots. Hence, working together is one of the most important themes of Commonwealth Day.
- Communication – this theme is yet another extremely important aspect of Commonwealth Day and is also very much related to the first theme which is working together. With effective communication, entities can work more closely and better together. Hence, the essence of cooperation.
- Sports – one way people can express working together is through sports games. When they play sports, they can cooperate well and work together to be able to celebrate and bring out the essence and purpose of Commonwealth Day.
- Education – education is also a recurring theme of Commonwealth day because progress in education and training individuals to become more educated is a major part of the success of the British Empire. Making education a central theme in Commonwealth Day is a good reminder of the great contribution of educational progress,
- Health and Vitality – this theme is also a recurrent theme in Commonwealth Day. without healthy individuals with high vitality, the British Empire would not be able to become successful. Hence, healthy individuals and nutrition is yet another central theme of Commonwealth Day.
- Science and Technology – during its reign, the British Empire was one of the most technologically and scientifically advanced countries in the world. It was one of the major contributors to the success of the empire. Hence science and technology are one of the most important themes of Commonwealth Day.
- Future Advances – the future is an important consideration when it comes to the Commonwealth. All constituent nations want to achieve better growth and development. Hence, the future is one of the most important central themes during Commonwealth Day.
Commonwealth Day Conclusion
The Commonwealth Day will happen on March 8th, 2021, and is just right around the corner. It is already so near that a lot of people are already preparing for it and so should you, if ever you are one of those people who traditionally celebrate this or if you just want to experience celebrating this special day. Hopefully, you were able to learn a lot from this article and that you and the whole world will be able to experience an amazing Commonwealth Day this coming March 8th.