Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy Queen's Birthday!

Today (Monday) is the Queen's Birthday holiday in most of Australia (but not in Western Australia or Queensland - they pick a different day to celebrate the Queen's Birthday. I don't know why). This is the one day of the year when all Australians are proud to call themselves monarchists because it means a day off from work and school.

But wait...the Queen's birthday is April 21st... (the same day as my mom's birthday - maybe we should celebrate her birthday today too!). Why celebrate it now? The reason, I suspect, is twofold.

First, the countries of the British Empire/Commonwealth have celebrated their monarch's birthday as a public holiday since 1748. In Australia, the Monarch's Birthday was celebrated as a holiday during the first year the British arrived in Sydney (1788). (I'm glad they kept their priorities straight. Maybe it helped to keep the spirits up of the newest inhabitants of the Empire's new penal colony.) This became an annual tradition with the date of the actual holiday moving to coincide with the actual birth date of the monarch. However, following the death of King George in 1936, whose birthday was June 3rd, the date of the public holiday in Australia (except for Queensland and Western Australia) has hovered around the beginning of June.

Second, April is already a busy month for holidays - Australia observes Good Friday and Easter Monday (both of which often fall in April) and ANZAC Day (April 25). And there are no other public holidays observed in June. Might as well spread 'em out!

As a result, in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and the Northern Territories, the Queen's (or, presumably one day, King's) Birthday holiday is always celebrated on the 2nd Monday in June. And we might as well enjoy this holiday for all it's worth - the next day off from work/school in New South Wales is not until Labour Day in October!

So, raise a cup of tea, drop a curtsey (or a bow), and toast the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. Happy Birthday, Your Majesty! And thanks for the day off from work!

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