Empire Day 2023 (New Zealand): Empire Day was once a worldwide holiday celebrated on May 24. The British Empire ruled over twenty-five percent of the world’s land area. At the height of the empire’s influence, a day was set aside to honour it, fostering a positive sense of patriotism under one specific holiday. Families and communities join together to honour their union with the United Kingdom.
HISTORY OF EMPIRE DAY
Queen Victoria, the Empress of India, is the matriarch of an empire that encompasses nearly one-fourth of the globe. She was revered and admired across her empire. This special event commemorated the birthdate of Queen Victoria on May 24. However, Empire Day was not first celebrated until after her death in 1901. It was acknowledged in New Zealand after her demise in 1903, two years later.
Empire Day signified New Zealanders’ national identity and strengthened their ties to Britain, their “mother country.” Empire Day was also a way for the United Kingdom to reestablish a patriotic connection with key elements of the empire.
New Zealanders were especially eager to participate in the festivities. Due to their isolation, they believed a powerful empire was a desirable empire. Children, accompanied by their mothers and fathers, marched through the streets bearing their respective national flags.
However, Empire Day is largely disregarded today. As the former British colonies attained their independence, there was a transition to a celebration centred on individual national identities united for a common cause. Empire Day is still celebrated around the globe, but its significance has diminished since the dissolution of the British Empire.
Instead, the Common Wealth was established. All nations that formerly celebrated Empire Day now commemorate Common Wealth Day on the second Monday of March.
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5 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT EMPIRE DAY
- Victoria Day continues to be a national holiday in Canada to this day.
- Auckland raised funds in 1897 for the erection of a statue honouring Queen Victoria, which would now cost $1,440,000.
- In 1903, veterans observed a day of faith on Sundays, and since May 24 of that year fell on a Sunday, the first Empire Day celebration was conducted a day late on the Monday that followed.
- The privileged of New Zealand understood that honouring the empire would result in favourable trade relations.
- In addition to the patriotic, imperialist perspective, children were taught about the empire’s sinister deeds, including slavery and the opium war.
EMPIRE DAY DATES