Have you ever wondered why the Queen’s Birthday is celebrated in New Zealand on the first Monday of June, when her 92nd birthday was actually on 21st April?
You’re not alone –last week my son asked me about this. Her Majesty is one of the few people who celebrate two birthdays – a real one and an official one. New Zealand is one of the six largest of sixteen Commonwealth Realms within the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Empire). The Queen’s birthday is celebrated on various dates across the commonwealth to fit with each country’s spread of public holidays.
The double birthday tradition was started more than 250 years ago by King George II in 1748. He was born in November, which, in the UK, isn’t known for its pleasant weather. King George wanted to be able to have a public celebration – and November wasn’t the time do it. So he decided to combine his birthday celebration with an annual military parade held in the summer, when the weather would (hopefully) be nicer. This is how the tradition of an official, public summer birthday for the monarch began in UK. The military parade continues to this day – it’s known as the “Trooping of the Colours”. This spectacle involves over 1,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians.
The parade begins at the Queens official residence – Buckingham Palace – making its way to Whitehall (near Downing Street) then back again. A highlight is when the RAF Red Arrows fly down the Mall and over the top of the palace. Spectators hope to catch a glimpse of the royal family as they travel down the Mall as part of the ceremony, or on Buckingham Palace’s balcony to greet well-wishers and watch RAF aerial display. This year will be the first time newly-weds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) will be in on the balcony with the Queen as husband and wife. Back home one of the official activities of this public holiday is the release of the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List where appointments are made to the Order of New Zealand, including Orders, Orders of Merit, Dames, Knights, Companions, Officers and more. These appointments are usually based on a person’s services to the community or the nation.
With that in mind, we especially acknowledge the quiet and humble workers in our communities. Whether or not you’ve been awarded an official honour, we acknowledge and appreciate those who have worked hard, seeking no reward or recognition in our communities – the volunteers, the conservationists, the care workers, those who sacrifice themselves for the most vulnerable.
We sincerely thank you.