Tuesday, June 06, 2023

New name, old holiday

New Zealand just observed the newly-renamed public holiday: King’s Birthday. For longer than most New Zealanders have been alive, there was Queen’s Birthday, but that ended when she died. It still seems weird.

The graphic aat left is for New Zealand retail chain Briscoes, which sells homewares—kitchen things, small appliances, manchester (household linen), picture frames, that sort of thing. They have sales for every conceivable holiday, whether real or not, so the fact they were having one for King’s Birthday wasn’t unique for them—or other retailers, either, because there were a lot of such sales and promotions. What struck me about this particular ad was the wording: “First Ever”, it said. Because, it is—sort of.

The company that owns Briscoes (Briscoe Group) originally began in 1781 in the UK, but began expanding in the 19th Century, and in 1862 entered New Zealand. Today, the group is a New Zealand company, but it’s was here when, in 1937, New Zealand’s Sovereign's Birthday Observance Act established the first Monday in June as the official birthday of the sovereign—who was King George VI at that time, meaning that Briscoes was in business when the first King’s Birthday under the 1937 Act was observed. So, technically, this is the “second ever” such holiday for them, though the sort of mercantile exuberance we now see around public holidays was probably not an omnipresent thing like it is now, so, even more technically, it’s certainly the first King’s Birthday Sale in any kind of modern sense.

Aside from retail sales, the holiday is also known for the annual Honours List (there are two: One on New Year’s Day and one on, as it is now, King’s Birthday). I don’t think the vast majority of New Zealanders take much notice of the honours, except maybe for the headline-making honours. There were two of them this year that probably got people’s attention.

This year’s list gave both Queen Camilla and former prime minister Jacinda Ardern top honours—both are now known as “Dame” (the female equivalent of “Sir”), though only Jacinda will be addressed with that (a queen "outranks" a knight, so she's use here "main" title). Like a lot of people, probably, one of my first thoughts was ”Queen Camilla?!” Fortunately for me, Stuff published a piece answering that: “Why is Queen Camilla getting NZ’s top order in the King’s Birthday honours?” Since Prince Phillip had a similar honour, I guess it makes “sense” for Queen Camilla to have one (insofar as the quaint knighthoods make any sense whatsoever, of course).

The bigger thing, though, was when I saw the alert about Jacinda [Related: Queen Camilla and Dame Jacinda Ardern recognised in King Charles Birthday and Coronation Honours”). I decided to stay off of the fetid cesspool that is Twitter, even though I chuckled at the thought of all the exploding heads among the loons, goons, and cartoons who wallow there. Ex-prime minister John Key, who himself was made a knight, wasn’t buying into the negativity, calling it a “right of passage” for former prime ministers.

My own holiday weekend was far less eventful: I did some chores (like laundry), and also rearranged a shelving unit in the garage so I could move the juicer out there. I use it a few times a year and it does a great job, but the machine and its parts took up scarce space in kitchen cupboard I stored it in. With that moved to the garage, I reorganised the cupboard it was in, as well as the drawer I kept all my baking pans, as well as a different cupboard. That reorganising was to keep like-things together, and the things I use the most close to hand (for example, I didn’t want to have to get down on the floor to get my roasting pan from the bottom shelf of the cupboard it was in).

There was a bit of rain on a couple of the days, so I didn’t plan to do anything big, nor go anywhere, either. As appealing as a big “King’s Birthday Sale” may sound, there was nothing I needed, and certainly not enough to brave the probably crowded shops. Instead, I had a nice, relaxing—and productive!—weekend.

This week I have a few things I’d like to get done, but maybe more about that in a round-up next week?

So, the first King’s Birthday public holiday that most New Zealanders have experienced is now over. Our next public holiday is Matariki on Friday, July 14, then Labour Day on Monday, October 23.

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