A little-known cerebration, Commonwealth Day is held on the second Monday of March, and marked by a service in Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen. Well, she is Head of the Commonwealth after all. The Queen delivers a message to other commonwealth nations throughout the world.
Although it’s not a public holiday, it does have official status in the UK.
The origins of Commonwealth Day
In 1904, Reginald Brabazon, an Earl, introduced the celebration to the UK ‘to nurture a sense of collective identity and imperial responsibility among young empire citizens’. As the youth of the day was the focus, school would dedicate morning lessons to remind children on their ‘mighty heritage.’ The flag would be venerated, and then children would be excused from school to take part in local events being held in their community.
The day ended by lighting fireworks in back gardens or attending community bonfires. It gave the King’s people a chance to show their pride in being part of the British Empire.
After the devastation of World War II, however, the event fell into decline. In order to ramp up the people’s spirits the name was changed to Commonwealth Day in the winter of 1958.
The theme for 2015 is A Young Commonwealth. A new generation brings new ideas. The Commonwealth is a family of dynamic countries at the forefront of innovation, growth and contributing global value.
Facts about Commonwealth Day
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 states with a total population of 2.2 billion.
The word ‘commonwealth’ comes from ‘common weal’, a 16th-century term for the common wellbeing.
Lord Roseberry was the first to call the British Empire a ‘commonwealth of nations’ in 1884.
The Commonwealth had its origins in the British Empire but its latest members, Rwanda and Mozambique, were never part of the Empire.