May 26 Sovereign’s Day /Commonwealth Day (in lieu of 24th May)
Celebrated nationwide as the Queen's birthday. National Sports Council holds horse races in Belize City at the National Stadium and in Orange Walk Town at the People's Stadium. Cycle races are held between Cayo and Belmopan.

Commonwealth or Sovereign’s Day, as it is known to us today, is the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations an inter-governmental organization of 54 independent or sovereign states. The origin of this day came about in 1884 when Lord Rosebery, while visiting Australia (then under British governance), observed the changes in the British Empire.

His observation was that some of its colonies were becoming increasingly independent. He was the first to address this issue and the first to refer to the states as the “Commonwealth of Nations” while still under the British rule. His observation lead to the first consultation between Britain and its colonies to address this emerging need for independence.

It was not until 1931, however, that the first 5 colonies became recognized as the “British Commonwealth of Nations”.

These nations included Canada, the United Kingdom, Irish Free State, Newfoundland, and the Union of South Africa. In 1946, the ‘British’ was dropped from the name and the member states became known officially as the Commonwealth of Nations or simply The Commonwealth. Over the years, members joined, withdrew from, and even rejoined the Commonwealth; but it wasn’t until 1949 that the international organization became the modern Commonwealth we know today.

In 1952, Queen Elizabeth took her place as the Head of the Commonwealth of Nations after the death of her father King George IV.

Today, biennial meetings are held with the Commonwealth Heads of Government, namely the President or Prime Minister of each state. Although the Queen does not attend these meetings, the purpose of the meetings remain the same. The Heads meet for free association, to promote common values of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, free trade and even world peace.

Belize joined the Commonwealth of Nations in the year of its independence, 1981. Belize is known as a constitutional monarch within the Commonwealth. This means that the Queen is no longer involved in the country’s daily governance but still continues to play a significant role in its ceremonial and symbolic events.

In the UK, Commonwealth Day is observed on the 2nd Monday in March which is complimented by the Queen’s speech. In Belize, Commonwealth Day is also known as Sovereign’s Day and is observed on May 24th. This date was chosen in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Hence the official name Sovereign’s Day which many Belizeans commonly call the Queen’s Birthday.

The day is recognized as an official Public & Bank holiday and is celebrated nation wide.

Although Commonwealth Day/Sovereign’s Day in Belize is mainly considered a recreational holiday to many Belizeans, it is important to recognize and remember that Belize has come a long way in its development as an integral member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Star