Commonwealth Day
Commonwealth Day is the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 held on the second Monday in March, and marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

, normally attended by HM Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth
Head of the Commonwealth
The Head of the Commonwealth heads the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 54 sovereign states. The position is currently occupied by the individual who serves as monarch of each of the Commonwealth realms, but has no day-to-day involvement in the...

, with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

s in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. The Queen delivers an address to the Commonwealth, broadcast throughout the world. Also, in the year before the quadrennial Commonwealth Games
Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games is an international, multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930 and takes place every four years....

, the Queen starts the Queen's Baton Relay
Queen's Baton Relay
The Queen's Baton Relay, similar to the Olympic Torch Relay, is a relay around the world held prior to the beginning of the Commonwealth Games. The Baton carries a message from the Head of the Commonwealth, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The Relay traditionally begins at Buckingham Palace in London...

 on Commonwealth Day at Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, in London, is the principal residence and office of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality...

, handing the baton to the first relay runner to start a journey that will end at the Opening Ceremony of the upcoming Games.

While it has a certain official status, Commonwealth Day is not a public holiday in most Commonwealth countries and there is little public awareness of it.


Clementina Trenholme
Clementina Trenholme
Clementina Trenholme Fessenden, , was born at the village of Trenholm, Canada East and died at Hamilton, Ontario, author, social organiser. Also, mother of Reginald Fessenden, the radio pioneer...

 introduced Empire Day in Canadian schools, first in Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton is a port city in the Canadian province of Ontario. Conceived by George Hamilton when he purchased the Durand farm shortly after the War of 1812, Hamilton has become the centre of a densely populated and industrialized region at the west end of Lake Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe...

, in 1898, on the last school day before 24 May, Queen Victoria's birthday. It was celebrated more each year. A typical Empire Day in Hamilton schools occupied the entire day and included inspirational speeches by trustees and songs such as The Maple Leaf Forever and Just Before the Battle. Empire Day was instituted in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 in 1904 by Lord Meath
Reginald Brabazon, 12th Earl of Meath
Reginald Brabazon, 12th Earl of Meath KP GCVO GBE PC was a British politician and philanthropist.The Honourable Reginald Brabazon was born in London, second son of Lord Brabazon. When his father succeeded as 11th Earl of Meath in 1851, Reginald, now heir , was styled Lord Brabazon...

, and extended throughout the countries of the Commonwealth. This day was celebrated by lighting fireworks in back gardens or attending community bonfires. It gave the Queen's people a chance to show their pride in being part of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...


In 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day, in accordance with the new post-colonial relationship between the nations of the former empire.

The National Council in Canada of the Royal Commonwealth Society
Royal Commonwealth Society
The Royal Commonwealth Society is an international educational charity and a private members' club. Its mission is to support and promote the modern Commonwealth, its culture and core values...

 expressed in a 1973 letter to Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 Pierre Trudeau
Pierre Trudeau
Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, , usually known as Pierre Trudeau or Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, and again from March 3, 1980 to June 30, 1984.Trudeau began his political career campaigning for socialist ideals,...

 that Commonwealth Day should be observed on the same day throughout all countries of the Commonwealth. They asked that this notion be included on the agenda of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

 that year. The item eventually appeared on the agenda of the 1975 meeting, and it was agreed that the Commonwealth Secretariat
Commonwealth Secretariat
The Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is responsible for facilitating cooperation between members; organising meetings, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings ; assisting and advising on policy...

 select a date, preferably one without previous historical connotations. At the meeting of officials in Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

 in 1976, the Canadian proposal of the second Monday in March was adopted.


In 2006 Elizabeth II delivered her Commonwealth Day address from St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney
St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney
St Andrew's Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in the Anglican Church of Australia. The cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of New South Wales, the Most Reverend Peter Jensen...

, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, part of the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games that year in Melbourne
2006 Commonwealth Games
The 2006 Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia between 15 March and 26 March 2006. It was the largest sporting event to be staged in Melbourne, eclipsing the 1956 Summer Olympics in terms of the number of teams competing, athletes competing, and events being held.The site...



In Canada, the only official recognition is a federal government stipulation that the Royal Union Flag
Union Flag
The Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom. It retains an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth Realms; for example, it is known as the Royal Union Flag in Canada. It is also used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas...

 be flown alongside Canada's flag at government installations nationwide, "where physical arrangements allow.... Physical arrangements means the existence of at least two flag poles". The 1964 parliamentary resolutions creating the Maple Leaf flag
Flag of Canada
The national flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf, and , is a red flag with a white square in its centre, featuring a stylized 11-pointed red maple leaf. Its adoption in 1965 marked the first time a national flag had been officially adopted in Canada to replace the Union Flag...

 also retained the Union Flag as an official symbol of Canada's membership in the Commonwealth, and allegiance to the Crown.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Union Flag
Flag of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland uses as its national flag the royal banner known as the Union Flag or, popularly, Union Jack. The current design of the Union Flag dates from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801...

 is flown from public buildings on the second Monday in March to mark Commonwealth Day. The Scottish Parliament Building
Scottish Parliament Building
The Scottish Parliament Building is the home of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Edinburgh. Construction of the building commenced in June 1999 and the Members of the Scottish Parliament held their first debate in the new building on 7...

 also flies the Commonwealth flag from the fourth flagpole.

Other Commonwealth countries

In member states of the Commonwealth, Commonwealth Day is celebrated on the second Monday in March. In 2009, it was celebrated on 9 March. In some countries, such as Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

In The Bahamas, a member of the Commonwealth since 1973, Commonwealth Day is marked officially in schools with special programmes and assemblies and flag-raising ceremonies. The Queen's Commonwealth Day message is often read at these events.

Other related holidays

Although Commonwealth Day is not widely known, many Commonwealth countries do have at least one public holiday that celebrates the sovereign's birthday—the day which inspired Commonwealth Day.

In Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 and some other countries, there is a Queen's Birthday holiday. In addition, the second Monday in March is Canberra Day
Canberra Day
Canberra Day is a public holiday held annually on the second Monday in March in the Australian Capital Territory to celebrate the official naming of Canberra. Canberra was named at a ceremony on 12 March 1913 by Lady Denman, the wife of the then Governor-General Lord Denman. In 2011 Canberra Day...

 in the Australian Capital Territory
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory, often abbreviated ACT, is the capital territory of the Commonwealth of Australia and is the smallest self-governing internal territory...

; this is an unrelated holiday on the same day as Commonwealth Day to celebrate the naming of the Australian capital city.

In Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and some parts of Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 and Dundee
Dundee is the fourth-largest city in Scotland and the 39th most populous settlement in the United Kingdom. It lies within the eastern central Lowlands on the north bank of the Firth of Tay, which feeds into the North Sea...

, the Monday on or before 24 May is a public holiday known as Victoria Day
Victoria Day
Victoria Day is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. The date is also, simultaneously, that on which the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday is recognized...


Commonwealth Day Themes

Year Theme
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
2002 Diversity
2001 A New Generation
2000 Sharing Knowledge - The Communications Challenge
1999 Music
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 Day on stamps

In 1983 Commonwealth Day was commemorated by the postal administrations of the Commonwealth.

Stamps were issued by:

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.