Lucky my mother called me today to remind me that 24 May is Empire Day. Not a lot of other people would know that. But my mother did and as she reminded me Empire Day was, in its heyday, a bit of a thing. Some people (yes Australian people) even wore union jack badges to mark the occasion. Not sure that would get up now.
Those noted children of the Empire, the Canadians, initiated the day in 1897, and following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 it was adopted throughout the British Empire and observed on her birthday, 24 May. According to the National Library of Australia, to mark the day flags were flown on all public and many private buildings and there were receptions and gatherings with speeches, street marches and parades. Some Australian school children had a half day holiday.Take note Gold Coast Commonwealth Games organisers.
My mum also said Empire Day was about bonfires and crackers. Families and communities gathered together for the celebrations at big bonfires to let off crackers like skyrockets and Catherine wheels and tom thumbs and double bungers – the sort of stuff that simply wouldn’t pass safety muster these days.
In 1958 Empire Day became Commonwealth Day to reflect the changed relationship between Britain and its former dominions (the word dominion reminds me of minions – probably something in that). It is now celebrated on the second Monday in March, It’s not a public holiday nor does it get a mention on the 6 o’clock news, but fifty-three countries did officially celebrate Commonwealth Day 2016 under the theme ‘An Inclusive Commonwealth’. The Queen attended a multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey with guests from around the world to promote shared Commonwealth values of peace, democracy and equality, and to celebrate the association’s rich diversity.
My Empire Day wrap pays a cheeky little nod to Queen Victoria, the Union Jack and how things have changed over the years. I have gone for patterned pastel union jacks from Just Peachy and teamed it with a deep pink ribbon (the colour always used to denote nations of the Empire on the world map) set against a glittery background of the same Empire inducing shade of pink . Add a cute little tag and Jubilations!(a fabulous word I found on some Empire Day posters)we have a wrap.
The Empire might be no more but I can’t deny that the Union Jack is a strong visual image and we all know how important visual images are to gift wrapping. Maybe we should have Commonwealth gift wrapping day – my mother would love that.