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Why we celebrate the King's birthday in June

New Zealanders are known for their unique blend of traditions and modern celebrations, and one such special occasion is the King's Birthday, observed on the first Monday of June each year. But why do we celebrate this day, and what makes it so significant? Let's dive into the history and fun facts behind this public holiday! 

A Royal Tradition 

The King's Birthday, previously known as the Queen’s Birthday, is a public holiday that honors the Head of State of New Zealand, who also by definition the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. This tradition of celebrating the monarch's birthday dates back centuries and is rooted in a fascinating history. 

Why June? 

While we in Aotearoa get ready to welcome winter showers, the King’s birthday is celebrated in June for to mark the start of summer in the United Kingdom. This despite the fact that King Charles III was born on November 14, 1948.  

The tradition of an official birthday celebration different from the actual birth date began with King George II in 1748. He was born in November, a month often plagued by poor weather in the UK, which isn't ideal for outdoor festivities. To ensure a more pleasant celebration, his birthday was marked in the summer.  

This practice has continued, providing an opportunity for parades, public ceremonies, and other outdoor activities without the risk of getting rained out. In New Zealand, this tradition offers a long weekend for citizens to relax and enjoy various festivities.  


Facts you must know! 

  • New Zealand is not alone in celebrating the monarch's official rather than actual birthday. Many Commonwealth countries, including Australia and Canada, also observe this tradition with their own public holidays. 

  • The King's Birthday provides an extra day off for many workers, making it a beloved long weekend. It’s a perfect time for short trips, family gatherings, or simply relaxing at home. 

  • This day used to also herald the start of the longest period of the year in New Zealand without a public holiday.  The next public holiday was traditionally Labour Day in late October, but the introduction of Matariki as a holiday in 2022 make the holiday-less period roughly 3 weeks shorter now. 

Here’s wishing everyone a lovely King’s birthday weekend! While the date might seem arbitrary at first glance, its placement in early June has historical roots and offers practical benefits for (Northern Hemisphere) nationwide festivities.  

So, whether you're attending an organized event, enjoying a family barbecue, or simply taking a well-deserved day off, remember that you're partaking in a tradition that links New Zealand with its royal and colonial traditions. 


Kia ora! 

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