|Observed by||Commonwealth of Nations|
|Celebrations||Multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey|
|Date||Second Monday in March|
|2016 date||March 14|
|2017 date||March 13|
|2018 date||March 12|
|2019 date||March 11|
|Related to||Commonwealth Games (every four years)|
Commonwealth Day, formerly Empire Day, is the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations held on the second Monday in March. It is marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey, normally attended by Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth along with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth High Commissioners in London. The Queen delivers an address to the Commonwealth, which is broadcast throughout the world.
History: Empire Day
The first Empire Day took place on 24 May 1902, celebrated prior to 1901 as the birthday of Queen Victoria, who died on 22 January 1901. It was instituted in the United Kingdom in 1905 by Lord Meath, and extended throughout the countries of the Commonwealth; Empire Day was a “symbol of that unity of feeling . . . to those ideals of freedom, justice, and tolerance for which the British Empire [stood] throughout the world.”.
Empire Day became a major event, involving, among other things, school parades and the BBC; in 1925, 90,000 people attended an Empire Day thanksgiving service held at Wembley Stadium as part of the British Empire Exhibition.
The idea of a day that would “remind children that they formed part of the British Empire, and that they might think with others in lands across the sea, what it meant to be sons and daughters of such a glorious Empire”; and which apprised them that “The strength of the Empire depended upon them, and they must never forget it” was conceived earlier, in 1897. In 1898, loyalist Canadian Clementina Trenholme introduced an Empire Day to Ontario schools, on the last school day before 24 May, Queen Victoria's birthday. Empire Day or Victoria Day was celebrated in the Cape Colony before the Second Boer War and thereafter throughout the Union of South Africa.
The British Empire League was instrumental in promoting Empire Day as a patriotic holiday. Empire Day traversed class boundaries, and after World War I it retained "hegemonic potency by amalgamating the emerging traditions of sombre commemoration into the repertoire of imperial festivity".
History: Commonwealth Day
The Commonwealth and Britain have a shared history, cultural links, common legal systems and business practices. Following a 1973 proposal by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Secretariat selected the second Monday in March as the date on which Commonwealth Day is observed throughout all countries of the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth Day is not a statutory holiday; rather it is a day of observance by approximately one billion people of their common bonds and the contribution of the Commonwealth of Nations to the creation of a harmonious global environment.
The Union Flag is flown from UK public buildings on the second Monday in March to mark Commonwealth Day. In addition, the Scottish Parliament Building flies the Commonwealth flag. The Queen and other members of the Royal family attend a special service at Westminster Abbey.
Although Commonwealth Day is not observed as a public holiday in Australia, several regional public holidays coincide with this day: Canberra Day in the Australian Capital Territory, Labour Day in Victoria, Adelaide Cup Day in South Australia, and Eight-hour Day in Tasmania. In 2006 Queen Elizabeth II delivered her Commonwealth Day address from St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; this formed part of the lead-up to the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Where two flagpoles are available, the Royal Union Flag - or Union Jack - is flown along with the Canadian national flag from sunrise to sunset at federal buildings, airports, military bases, and other establishments within Canada in order to mark Commonwealth day. The 1964 parliamentary resolutions creating the Maple Leaf flag simultaneously retained the Royal Union Flag as an official symbol of Canada's membership in the Commonwealth, and allegiance to the Crown.
Other Commonwealth countries
In Belize and The Bahamas, among other places, Commonwealth Day is marked officially in schools with special programmes and assemblies involving flag-raising ceremonies; the Queen's Commonwealth Day message is often read at such events.
Commonwealth Day Themes
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Empire Day.|
|2017||A Peace-building Commonwealth|
|2016||An Inclusive Commonwealth|
|2015||A Young Commonwealth|
|2013||Opportunity through Enterprise|
|2011||Women as Agents of Change|
|2010||Science, Technology and Society|
|2009||Commonwealth@60 – Serving a New Generation|
|2008||The Environment, Our Future|
|2007||Respecting Difference, Promoting Understanding|
|2006||Health & Vitality|
|2005||Education – Creating Opportunity, Realising Potential|
|2004||Building a Commonwealth of Freedom|
|2003||Partners in Development|
|2001||A New Generation|
|2000||Sharing Knowledge – The Communications Challenge|
|1998||Sport Brings Us Together|
|1997||Talking to One Another|
|1996||Our Working Partnership|
|1995||Our Commonwealth Neighbourhood – Working Together for Tolerance and Understanding|
- Commonwealth of Nations membership criteria
- Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan
- Empire Air Day
- Royal Commonwealth Society
- Territorial evolution of the British Empire
- Commonwealth Day official website
- C. 1917 Pathé News view of Empire Day
- 1919 Pathé News views of Empire Day
- 1920s view of Empire Day
- 1922 Pathé News view of Empire Day
- British Movietone News 1930 view of Empire Day
- 1931 Pathé News view of Empire Day
- 1933 Pathé News view of Empire Day
- 1934 Pathé News view of Empire Day
- HM King George VI: Empire Day Address, 24 May 1940
- The Queen's Commonwealth Day Message 2011
- 2017 Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey
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