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Happy (New Zealand) Birthday, Queen Elizabeth!

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Princess Elizabeth on thirteenth birthday, 1939 (Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, LC-USZ62-112125)

The British Royal Family has been a quite a topic of conversation here in the U.S. this year, what with “that” wedding a few weeks ago.  Coming from a Commonwealth Realm I saw many references to Queen Elizabeth II and her family while I was growing up – her picture on our coins and notes, her Christmas Message on the telly, royal visits, and plenty of royal gossip in the gossip mags.  And every year we had a public holiday on the first Monday in June to observe the Queen’s birthday.

Of course, the Queen’s actual birthday cannot really be the first Monday of June every year.  And it’s not the second Monday of June either, which is when most Australians get a day off for her birthday.  Nor is it a Monday in late May, when Canadians mark her birthday.  In fact, Queen Elizabeth II’s actual date of birth is April 21.  However, even in England official celebrations to mark the Queen’s birthday are held on a different day – a Saturday in June – and, unlike other Commonwealth countries, there is no public holiday for it there.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, in wedding dress and dress military uniform, 1947 (Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, LC-USZ62-127777)

Countries might release a “Queen’s Birthday Honours” list at the time that the Queen’s birthday is officially observed.  The “honourssystems involve various orders, decorations, and medals that are awarded to citizens in recognition of their achievements or services.  There might be other events in the different countries too, but in New Zealand there isn’t really a big fuss made over the day.  In fact, around this time of year you are probably more likely to hear about the increasing number of events and celebrations relating to Matariki – the Māori New Year.  Not that anyone is complaining about having a long weekend, of course!



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