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Commonwealth Day 2019: Significance, why is it celebrated

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New Delhi, May 24: Today is Commonwealth Day. The Commonwealth Day was earlier known as the Empire Day. It is observed in countries that were once under the reign of the British Empire. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth as it is configured today.

The theme of this year's Commonwealth Day is "A Connected Commonwealth". The theme of the Commonwealth Day 2018 was "Towards A Common Future".

Commonwealth Day 2019: Significance, why is it celebrated

Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia are the oldest-standing members of the Commonwealth; they all joined in 1931. Canada is the largest member at nearly 10 million sq.km. India is the most populous member with over one billion inhabitants while Nauru is the smallest member, with a mere 13,000 people.

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After the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901, her birthday, 24 May, was celebrated from 24 May 1902 as Empire Day, though not officially recognised as an annual event until 1916. It was instituted in the United Kingdom in 1905 by Lord Meath, and extended throughout the countries of the Commonwealth; Empire Day was a "symbol of that unity of feeling . . . to those ideals of freedom, justice, and tolerance for which the British Empire [stood] throughout the world".

Commonwealth Day has a special significance this year, as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth. The Commonwealth represents a global network of 53 countries and almost 2.4 billion people, a third of the world's population, of whom 60 per cent are under 30 years old.

Observances of this day is not uniform across the 53 member states; meaning that each country observes the day in its own way. For instance, in the UK the day is often started off with the Union Jack flying over government buildings and a special speech given by the Queen. Members of the Royal Family - including the Queen - usually attend special services on this day as well.

In Canada, the Canadian Flag is usually flown alongside the Union Jack to commemorate the day. However, if the flag pole is not big enough to accommodate two flags, then usually only the Canadian Flag is flown.

In some of the British possessions in the Caribbean, special flag raising ceremonies are performed to commemorate the day. At these events, the Queen's message to the Commonwealth is usually read aloud to those in attendance at these events.

The Commonwealth is one of the world's oldest political association of states, with its roots in the British Empire when some countries were ruled directly or indirectly by Britain. Independent countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific have joined The Commonwealth over the years, with the last two members to join - Rwanda and Mozambique - having no historical ties to the Empire.

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