Over this past weekend we’ve seen another “life marker” come and go which for most people in modern Australian society is simply a long (albeit for some also an idealogically-debated) weekend.
The Queen’s Official Birthday is a date which, since the mid-18th century, has been chosen as an official celebration of the birthday of the Commonwealth monarch. These days it seems to be a date which is adopted by local parliaments in countries within the Commonwealth, and rarely coincides with the monarch’s actual birthday. The date is different from place to place, even within Australia! Makes you wonder what the point is really, doesn’t it?
In fact, the idea of the “chosen” date originates from the English weather. The annual Trooping the Colour parade, a display of ceremonial pomp held to officially celebrate the birthday, is of course much nicer in the summer when the weather is kinder. Those countries which celebrate the Queen’s Birthday with a public holiday make choices that are also based on local convenience.
Being in Queensland I had a little chuckle when I read Wikipedia’s assertion that the celebration of the event in October in 2012 was a one-off to do with the Diamond Jubilee. That may be the official version, but as locals saw it the October date was an attempt by the government to “spread out the public holidays”, and the reversion to June was more to do with the impact on the numerous events (including weddings) traditionally held on that June long weekend! Such is tradition…
The Queen’s Birthday, like Australia Day, is also a commemoration which brings up questions of inclusiveness and the modern relevance of such customs. Questions of republic sentiment, indigenous recognition and the relevance of monarchy as a whole become a more public matter of debate which if you really think about it boils down to a single question – “Why should we celebrate X if it doesn’t include/recognise Y?”
Because I see the basic idea of celebration as one that fundamentally unifies human beings, it’s not a debate I tend to get into. I’m too prone to playing devil’s advocate on the one hand, and saying “why can’t we all just get along?” on the other. Instead I’ll leave the question above in the air as one for you to consider, as in itself it’s actually a deeply philosophical one:
Why DO you celebrate one thing, and not another? What does that say about what’s important to you, your family, your culture?
This fortnight’s video, courtesy of the BBC, shows the Queen presiding over her first Trooping of the Colour.