Commonwealth Day, a day observed by the people of all Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and America, the Pacific and Europe, is observed on the second Monday in March each year. However, in India and some other countries, Commonwealth Day is celebrated on May 24.
Every year on Commonwealth Day, the Queen of the United Kingdom sends a special message to Commonwealth youth through a radio broadcast.
This year, Commonwealth Day was celebrated on March 14 with a service at Westminster Abbey, attended by the Queen and the Royal Family. The theme for Commonwealth Day 2022 was “Delivering a Common Future”, in line with the theme of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Why Commonwealth Day is celebrated
Formerly known as Empire Day, Commonwealth Day is celebrated in 54 countries with the aim of honoring the shared history and values of Commonwealth states. In a few Commonwealth countries, it is a public holiday.
Empire Day was first celebrated after Queen Victoria died on her birthday, May 24, 1902. Victoria died on January 22, 1901. However, it was not until 1916 that the Empire Day has been granted official annual event status. Its popularity grew every year and in 1925 an Empire Day Thanksgiving was celebrated at Wembley Stadium with around 90,000 attendees.
According to History UK, a website dedicated to Britain’s history and heritage, school children across the British Empire would take part in Empire Day celebrations, saluting the Union Jack and singing patriotic songs as Jerusalem and God Save the Queen.
The children also heard stories of bravery from across the Empire, including that of India’s first British Governor of the Bengal Presidency, Robert Clive.
Mentions of such a celebration can be found in a New Zealand school newspaper dating from 1910.
Empire Day was celebrated for over 50 years until the British Empire began to decline. By the 1950s Britain’s relationship with certain countries had changed and dissenters saw Empire Day as an opportunity to attack British imperialism.
In 1958 Empire Day was renamed British Commonwealth Day by then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan and became Commonwealth Day in 1966.
The celebrations were now taking place on June 10, the birthday of the current Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1977, the date was again changed to the second Monday in March.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First post: STI