December 29, 2012

His Majesty the King's Birthday and Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday

King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit are constitutional monarchs, but they still have great influence on the Thai government and have devoted their lives to assisting the poor and helping Thailand make the transition to a democratic government. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world's longest reigning current monarch, having reigned since 1946, and Queen Sirikit is the world's longest reigning queen consort. They are loved by their people, who honor them with festivities on their birthdays. The King and Queen are considered to be the father and mother of all Thai people, so their birthdays are also celebrated as Father's Day and Mother's Day. Hence, the dates of Father's Day and Mother's Day change every time there is a new monarch in Thailand. If the holiday falls on a weekend, it is observed the following Monday.

Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday is December 5. On this day, many Thai people dress in yellow, which symbolizes their devotion to their King. The King gives a speech to government officials, which is later broadcast on TV. Buildings are decorated with flags, banners, lights. and pictures of the King. There are parades in big cities. The Grand Palace in Bangkok is decorated with flowers. Additionally, there are religious ceremonies held for the King. People all over Thailand free captive animals and pray for Bhumibol Adulyadej's good health. Since it is Father's Day, people give their fathers gifts and take them out for dinner.

People dress in yellow to honor their King: credits to

In the evening, a free concert takes place in the garden outside the palace. Musicians of all ages perform many genres of music. It is considered an honor to be asked to play at this concert, according to Some performers sing songs composed by the King himself. When the sun goes down, there are fireworks.

Sirikit's birthday is August 12. Buildings are decorated with lights, Thai flags, and pictures of the Queen. There are parades and festivals. The biggest festival takes place on the street in front of the Grand Palace. Fireworks light up the sky at night. The Queen's Birthday celebrations are similar to the King's Birthday celebrations in many ways; however, there are some differences. People dress in pink instead of yellow. Children give flowers and other gifts to their mothers. Jasmine, which represents respect toward mothers, is often used as a decoration. 

King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit have done much to help Thailand. They are greatly loved and respected by their people, who demonstrate their gratefulness on December 5 and August 12 every year. The days on which these beloved monarchs die will be sad ones.

Birthday shoutouts to Beth

December 22, 2012

Tennou tanjoubi

The Emperor of Japan, like the Queen of England, is a constitutional monarch and not the official head of government. However, he is still loved and respected by the Japanese people, who honor him on his birthday every year by visiting him at the Imperial Palace. The Emperor's birthday is a public holiday known as tennou tanjoubi (spelling may vary), which means "The Emperor's Birthday." The date changes every time a new Emperor ascends to the throne; the Japanese always celebrate tennou tanjoubi on their Emperor's real birthday. The current Emperor, Emperor Akihito, celebrates his birthday on December 23.

The Japanese believe that the first Emperor, Jimmu, descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, took the throne in 660 B.C. and that every Emperor can trace their lineage back to him. The official position of head of state has changed hands many times, but the ruler always seeks to be recognized by the Emperor; this legitimizes his position as ruler. In the 1860s, Emperor Meiji actually was head of state, though military officials were often the ones to implement policy. When Japan wrote its post-war constitution in 1946, it stated that the Emperor would only have symbolic power. In 1950, Emperor Hirohito, Akihito's father, started the tradition of making a public appearance on his birthday every year. More information on the history of the Japanese Emperors can be found at

Emperor Akihito has chosen to break with several traditions. He attended grade school with common children, married a woman of non-imperial blood, and raised his children at home. He is the 125th Emperor of Japan and has had the title since the death of his father in 1989.

The Emperor's birthday is one of only two days on which the gates to the Kokyo (the Imperial Palace) are opened. On the morning of the Emperor's birthday, visitors line up across the Nijubashi Bridge from the Palace and are escorted across the bridge by the police. Between 10:00 and 11:00, the Emperor and his wife, Empress Michiko, along with other members of the imperial family, appear on the balcony of the Imperial Palace and wave at the crowd. The Emperor usually gives a special address as well. The crowd responds by waving Japanese flags and shouting. Since there is a large number of visitors, the process usually repeats itself two or three times. However, the younger generation does not have much interest in the imperial family and most of the Emperor's tennou tanjoubi visitors are older Japanese or tourists, according to

Japanese greet their Emperor with the national flag: credits to

 Japan also celebrates several public holidays to honor the birthdays of former emperors. Emperor Hirohito's birthday, April 29, is known as Showa Day. Emperor Meiji's birthday, November 3, is known as Culture Day.

Birthday shoutouts to Nathan, Cam, and Ian

December 16, 2012

Trooping the Colour

"Trooping the Colour" is the military parade that takes place in London each year to honor the British Queen's birthday. It is also known as the Queen's Birthday Parade. While not the actual head of government, the Queen of England is known as a constitutional monarch and is the official head of state. Her real birthday is in April, but Trooping the Colour takes place in June. This has long been the tradition regardless of the monarch's real birthday to ensure good weather for the parade. The date varies from year to year, though it is always on a Saturday.

The tradition goes back to the reign of Charles II the 1700s. It started as a way for soldiers to identify their regiment during battle. Each regiment had its own Colour, a flag held in the center of a regiment. The earliest record of Trooping the Colour is from 1748. Upon George III's ascension to the throne twelve years later, annual parades for his birthday were ordered. For several years in the early 1800s there were parades on both the King and Queen's birthdays; however, there were no parades in the 1810s due George III's illness. When George IV became King in 1820, the parades became an annual event to honor the monarch's birthday, except during the two World Wars.

Over 1400 people participate in Trooping the Colour. The Household Guards are the Queen's personal troops and have the honor of participating in the parade; they consist of both Horse Guards and Foot Guards. There are five regiments of Guards: Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, and Welsh Guards. The latter two did not exist until the early 1900s, according to The five regiments take turns being the ones to troop the Colour.

The ceremony begins around 10:00 in the morning, when the Queen and other members of the royal family parade from Buckingham Palace, along the Mall, to Horse Guard's Parade and Whitehall. Prior to 1986, the Queen arrived on horseback. Since then, she has arrived in a carriage. She wears the uniform of the regiment whose Colour will be trooped.

The Royal Procession arrives promptly at eleven and the Queen takes the Royal Salute from the Guards. She then drives down the ranks of Guards, inspecting them. Large bands play patriotic songs. The Regimental Sergeant Major walks behind the Escort for the Colour and receives the Colour from the Sergeant of the Colour Party. The Ensign for the Colour salutes the Colour, receives it from the RSM, and carries the Colour through the ranks, following behind the Escort, who has become the Escort to the Colour upon the receiving of the Colour. The Foot Guards march past the Queen and the Colour is lowered in salute. The Horse Guards follow. The Queen and her Guards return to Buckingham Palace. The Royal Family stands on the balcony to watch an RAF flypast. A 41-gun salute is fired in Green Park opposite the Palace. More information on this procedure can be found at

Trooping the Colour 2012: credits to

In order to sit in the stands around Horse Guards Parade during Trooping the Colour, one must submit an application. Applications for tickets should be sent in January or February. Applicants will be informed in March whether they will receive tickets. People who were not lucky enough to receive tickets for the stands stand along the Mall to watch the ceremony from a distance.

The Queen usually celebrates her real birthday privately, though it is marked with a gun salute. On her real 80th birthday in 2006, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated by walking in the streets around Windsor Castle and greeting people, according to

Birthday shoutouts to Uncle Mark

December 8, 2012


Since I live in a town with many people of Dutch descent, I decided to start by discussing the celebration of the Queen's birthday in the Netherlands. Koninginnedag, which means "Queen's Day," is celebrated on April 30, unless that is a Sunday. If it is a Sunday, Koninginnedag is celebrated the day before so that people can still have a day off work.

The tradition began in 1885 on Princess Wilhemina's fifth birthday. It was known as Prinsessedag (Princesses Day) until Wilhemina's succession to the throne five years later. Queen Wilhemina's birthday was August 31, and Queen's Day was always the last day of summer vacation. When Wilhemina's daughter, Juliana, became Queen in 1948, Koninginnedag was moved to her birthday, April 30. Juliana's daughter, Beatrix, has been Queen since 1980. Her birthday is in January, but Koninginnedag is still celebrated on April 30 as a way of honoring Queen Juliana, and also because many Queen's Day celebrations take place outdoors.

Orange is the official color of the Dutch royal family, and on Queen's Day everyone dresses in orange. This is known as the oranjegekte, or Orange Craze. Many people paint their faces, dye their hair, or wear mock crowns or other symbols of the royal family. Some even dress as the Queen. Cities are decked out with orange banners. People eat orange food and drink orange drinks, including oranje bitter, an alcoholic drink made from soaking orange peel in gin. Some restaurants have special Queen's Day menus.
Orange Craze in Amsterdam
Credits to

Celebrations begin the night before, Koninginnenacht or "Queen's Night." In bigger cities, particularly Amsterdam, there are music performances and street parties. Some celebrations last all night until the vrijmarkts (free markets) open in the morning. Some people sleep on the streets to keep their places for the free market.

The vrijmarkt is an important part of Koninginnedag. It is the only time Dutch people are allowed to sell items on the street without permits and without sales tax. People set up stalls to sell secondhand goods at low prices. Children take part in the vrijmarkt, selling old toys. The best deals of the year can be found at the free market. In bigger cities, the vrijmarkt is taken very seriously. In small towns, it has a more casual feel.

Children love Queen's Day because it means a day off school. They play traditional games such as koekhappen, a game in which children jump to eat cakes hanging from a string without using their hands, and spijker poepen, a game in which one must lower a nail dangling by a string tied around one's waist into a bottle.

The Queen and her family visit one or two cities on Queen's Day. The Queen is honored with a parade. In 2009, a man drove his car into the Queen's Day parade, barely missing the Queen's double decker bus and killing seven bystanders. This sparked debate over whether the Queen should continue the tradition of visiting cities on Queen's Day. However, Queen Beatrix said she would continue to visit her people and participate in parades, so that Queen's Day is still "the open and friendly celebration that it used to be," according to

In big cities, people gather in the city squares to eat, drink, and watch musical performances. The biggest musical acts of the year take place on Queen's Day at Museum Square in Amsterdam. One song often performed is Het Wilhelmus, a poem dating back to the 16th century. People often spontaneously sing this song on Queen's Day.

Koninginnedag is also celebrated in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In recent years it has been celebrated in London and Madrid as well. In my hometown, children from one elementary school honor the Queen's Birthday in the annual Children's Parade, one of three parades in the local Tulip Festival.

People from all over the world travel to the Netherlands to participate in Queen's Day. The biggest celebration takes place in Amsterdam. More information on this can be found at

Birthday shoutouts to Elizabeth
Feel free to comment with a birthday shoutout for someone!

December 1, 2012

Welcome to my blog

Hello! I'm Birthday Keeper, but you can also call me Maria. I am a high school senior, and I wanted to keep a blog for my senior project. I have always been fascinated by birthdays. Even at a young age I always wanted to know the birthdays of everyone in my family and my class. When I got older I began writing down all my classmates' birthdays in my planner and looking at my mother's calendar to learn all the family birthdays. In recent years I have become famous among my classmates for knowing the birthdays of almost everyone in my grade.
My most recent birthday!
In my blog, I will describe how birthdays have been celebrated and are celebrated in different cultures worldwide. I will also include feature posts about birthday parties and half birthdays, among other things. Posts will include birthday shoutouts to family members, classmates, and other friends who have birthdays in the coming week. I hope you enjoy reading Birthday Keeper!