CanadaInfo Navigator Bar

Commonwealth Day

The second Monday in March is Commonwealth Day. It is the day when Commonwealth countries which represent a quarter of all humanity acknowledge their membership of this unique voluntary association.


The second Monday in March was picked as Commonwealth Day because it is a day when all schools throughout the Commonwealth are in session. It does not coincide with a major holiday or festival. Commonwealth leaders agreed that the day should be used to promote knowledge of the Commonwealth, particularly among the young people of their countries.

The idea came from Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. He wanted one day each year on which all Commonwealth countries could mark their membership and encourage commitment to the association.

Since 1977, schools all over the Commonwealth have organized special activities to promote understanding of the association and to provide shared enjoyment. Stimulating interest in and enhancing study of the Commonwealth is another objective.

The kind of activities a school may hold depends on the extent to which learning about the Commonwealth forms an integrated part of the curriculum. Some teachers encourage children to come up with their own ideas on what to do on the day. Many institutions hold special events - sports and games, displays and exhibitions, general knowledge contests on the Commonwealth, film shows, speeches and parties.

Some schools hold mock summits when children play various Commonwealth 'leaders' but talk about real issues, while others stage their own version of the four-yearly Commonwealth Games.

There are speech and drama contests, folk dancing and displays of national costumes, cookery demonstrations involving recipes from member countries, parades of national flags and readings from the works of famous Commonwealth writers and poets.

Projects involving the collection of stamps, food and matchbox labels, picture collages and finding penpals and establishing links with schools in other Commonwealth countries are some of the other ways in which children's interest is stimulated. The activities are mainly designed to make learning about the Commonwealth fun.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has produced a Commonwealth Day handbook for schools which contains a wealth of ideas on how to mark the day. It publishes a special Commonwealth Day poster with a different theme each year. More than 125 000 copies of the poster have been produced this year for distribution in schools and public places throughout the Commonwealth.

The Secretariat, which is the international organization at the service of all member countries, itself marks Commonwealth Day with a reception given by Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku and his wife Mrs. Bunmi Anyaoku. It is held at Marlborough House, a former royal residence in the heart of London, which is the headquarters of the Secretariat. The reception is usually attended, among others, by Queen Elizabeth II, head of the Commonwealth, who issues a special Commonwealth Day message reflecting the year's theme.

There are multi-faith services in some cities, including London where it is held at historic Westminster Abbey and is attended by followers of the Commonwealth's major religions.

The Commonwealth Flag

The Commonwealth Flag consists of the Commonwealth Symbol in gold on a blue background. The symbol consists of a radial grating forming the letter "C" surrounding a circular solid on which are superimposed five latitudinal and five longitudinal lines to represent the globe. The Symbol is centred on the rectangle and the dimensions of the rectangle are 2:1.

Flag of The Commonwealth
There is no significance in the number of rays and they do not seek to represent the number of countries within the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Symbol was registered with The Patent Office in the United Kingdom under the Trade Marks Act, 1938 on the 26th March 1976, and internationally with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Switzerland.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has decided on Blue Pantone 287 and Yellow Pantone 108 to describe the colours of the Commonwealth Flag.

"The Union Jack will, where physical arrangements allow, be flown along with the National Flag at federal buildings, airports, military bases, and other appropriate establishments within Canada, from sunrise to sunset, on the date of the official observance of Commonwealth Day (the second Monday in March)."

SOURCE: The Commonwealth Secretariat.

See also
Canadian Holidays

External Links
The Commonwealth Official Website

Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt