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Queen’s Birthday Holiday – Information, History & Customs

Posted By Duncan Idaho On March 31, 2010 @ 1:42 pm In New Zealand Holidays | 2 Comments

Queen’s Birthday holiday in New Zealand is a chance for weary workers to load the station wagon, pack up the family and take a long weekend away from home. It’s a welcome public holiday in the middle of the year and we have the British monarchy to thank for it.

Queen’s Birthday – Different Dates, Different Places

The Queen’s Birthday is celebrated in New Zealand on the first Monday of June each year.

In other parts of the world, however, it’s celebrated at different times. In the UK, for instance it can fall variously on the first, second or third Saturday of June (and it’s not even a public holiday). In Canada it’s rolled in with Victoria Day and is celebrated on Queen Victoria’s birth date of 24th May. And the Aussies take their Queen’s Birthday day off on the second Monday in June.

Why so many Queen’s Birthdays?

How can one woman have so many different birthdays? Well, the holidays celebrated in Commonwealth countries to mark the Sovereign’s birthday mark the Queen’s official birthday, not her real one of 21st April 1926.

The fact that holidays for the Monarch’s official birthday fall on different dates in different countries is a result of political expediency and historical tradition.

Why do the Monarchs Celebrate in June?

So why not have the holiday on the Monarch’s real birthday? In short – the English weather. British monarchs did not want national celebrations and the attendant parades for their birthdays spoiled by freezing cold and lashing rain. So, starting with King Edward VII (who was born in November), the Sovereign’s official birthday celebrations were moved to early (northern) summer.

June for us in New Zealand is the start of winter, but because there are few large-scale public functions held to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, and because our winter (at least in some parts) is not as dreary as the British equivalent, the June timing has not been changed for southern hemisphere countries.

Queen’s Birthday Honours List

The Queen’s Birthday holiday is, along with New Year, a traditional time for the release of the Queen’s honours list. The honours list recognises people who have made significant contributions to the country or commonwealth by bestowing upon them various honours and titles.

Variations on a Theme

In New Zealand in recent years a number of suggestions have been made to replace the Queen’s Birthday holiday with a more culturally or nationally relevant alternative.

The most vociferous of these has been the proposal to reassign the holiday as Matariki Day to more widely recognise Maori New Year.

The notion of renaming the holiday Hillary Weekend, to commemorate Sir Edmund Hillary has also been raised.

To date, though, neither of these proposals has been adopted.

Spare a Thought this Queen’s Birthday

This Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend, while you’re barbequing the snarlers or watching the game, spare a thought for the British winter weather and the long line of tradition responsible for your extra day off.

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