Peak Translations

Happy Commonwealth Day!

It’s a time to celebrate the coming together of countries, a symphony of cultural and political borders that joined forces back in 1949 to create an arrangement of continual prosperity across 52 member nations. The yearly event, which occurs on the second Monday in March, marks this day with a particular theme, whose melody varies from year to year. 2019’s Commonwealth score will be playing a tune that brings people, cultures and countries together, ‘A Connected Commonwealth’. Given this era of volatility and uneasiness spread across the world, the keynote seems rather apt. This year’s theme hopes to offers opportunities for the people, governments and institutions of this richly diverse family of nations to connect and work together at many levels through far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill’.

Public events unfold across the globe; with London playing centre stage given that Queen Elizabeth II is the lead conductor of this global Commonwealth orchestra. During this celebration, the Commonwealth ensemble inclusive of individuals, organisations and communities, as well as non-member nations, take this opportunity to pick up their 16-core valued instrument and play out their beliefs in peace, democracy and equality, as well as rejoice in the association’s layered diversity. The one thing that stands out on this international stage is the celebration of shared heritage. And what is even more special about this particular Commonwealth Day is that 2019 marks the 70th Anniversary of the Commonwealth’s formation.

Formerly known as ‘Empire Day’, Commonwealth Day was born in Canada in 1898 and was originally celebrated on May 24th in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Given all that this day stands for, it is rather a low-key affair as public holidays go. Nevertheless, the key players of the day are as follows: –

  • A multi-faith service is held at Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen, who is generally joined by representatives from all the Commonwealth nations including the likes of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, Cameroon, Canada and so forth, as well as the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth High Commissioners in London.
  • No flag will be left ‘unflown’, as all member state flags will be flying with Commonwealth pride outside Westminster Abbey including the Commonwealth Flag, which takes pride of place outside Scottish Parliament from their fourth flagpole. Alongside these flying flags will be the Union Flag fluttering in the Canadian winds outside all government buildings (if two flagpoles are present).
  • All Commonwealth nations will receive an address from the Queen relating to the theme of the year.
  • Schools will make sure that Commonwealth Day plays first fiddle at special morning assemblies, highlighting the myriad of Commonwealth cultures worldwide. This gives children an opportunity to learn all about the different nations and to dress up in national dress and make additional flags to fly on the day. In Mary Poppins style ‘Let’s go fly a ‘flag’ up to the highest height’!
  • Although described as a public holiday, it is more a day of note marking the occasion. However, there are two countries that have made it a national holiday including Gibraltar (celebrations occur on the same day) and Belize (celebrations occur on May 24th in appreciation of the Queen’s birthday, whereby the Belize culture is recognised and youth events and horse races are held.

In essence, Commonwealth Day is a day in which to remember and appreciate the melting pot of cultures the member nations offer, as well as help everyone gain a greater understanding of how the world is a fascinating and wonderful place in all its rich diversity. In turn this helps promote unity across the board in the hope of a more peaceful and stable world.

By Madeline Prusmann, Project Manager March 2019





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