What is Commonwealth Day and why do we celebrate it?

Commonwealth Day 2018
2018's Commonwealth Day theme is 'Towards a Common Future'.

Today (March 12) is Commonwealth Day, which  is observed annually across the world on the second Monday of March.

The theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day, which brings together people from countries in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Americas, Asia and the Pacific, is ‘Towards a Common Future’.

According to the Commonwealth association: “‘Towards a Common Future’ renews our Commonwealth vision and commitment to building on the individual and collective strengths of all member countries to respond to global challenges, and deliver a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all of our citizens, particularly our young people.”

This year’s Commonwealth Day will be followed by the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is scheduled to take place between April 16 and April 20 in London and will bring together the heads of the 53 nations in the Commonwealth to work towards a future of peace and prosperity.

Why do we celebrate Commonwealth Day?

Commonwealth Day was originally known as Empire Day, and it was first celebrated on 24 May 1902 which was Queen Victoria’s birthday. However, it wasn’t officially recognised an an annual event until 1916.

In 1958, as the British Empire declined, it was rebranded to reflect the UK’s changing relationship with the rest of the world.

The date on which Commonwealth Day was celebrated changed several times until 1977, and once took place on Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday in June.

Today, it acts as a reminder of the bonds between the UK and its closest allies. With more than 2.4 billion people living in the 53 nations, the Commonwealth accounts for 30 percent of the world’s population.

How is Commonwealth Day celebrated?

Schools across the Commonwealth will mark the date with assemblies, flag raising ceremonies, parties, debates and all sorts of other fun activities.

The Queen and other members of the Royal Family will attend the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey, accompanied by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Kate and Prince Harry with his fiancé Meghan Markle.

Attendees will be treated to musical performances from Ghanaian drum collective One-Drum, Ngati Ranana London Maori Club, Portsmouth Gospel Choir, and British musician Liam Payne. Spoken reflections will be given by award-winning spoken word artist Jaspreet Kaur, and Dr Andrew Bastawrous, Co-Founder and CEO of Peek Vision.

After the service, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will join Harry and Meghan for the annual reception.


  1. […] Commonwealth Day has been celebrated across the Commonwealth every year since the 1970s. In recent years, there has been a shift away from celebrating a single day towards celebrating a full week, with Commonwealth Day at its focus and first day. The aim is to celebrate the unity, diversity and links of the modern Commonwealth and to foster greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s achievements and role. On Wednesday, 13 March, the annual Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work will be awarded to young people from each of the Commonwealth’s regions. […]

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