Children’s Day in the UK, where did it go?

Children dancing round the maypole at Leeds Children's Day

Children dancing around a maypole at Leeds Children’s Day, 1957. © Yorkshire Film Archive

Some years ago, whilst enjoying the festivities of Father’s Day, my youngest daughter complained to me that, although she enjoyed Mother’s Day and, of course, Father’s Day, she was somewhat concerned that there was no Children’s Day on the calendar. I explained that there was her birthday; to which she quipped that her mother and I both had a birthday but we also had a dedicated day where we could enjoy additional celebrations. I remember telling her that in our house every day was children’s day. But that conversation has stuck with me through the years as I fondly reminisce upon the children’s day celebrations which I enjoyed, as a child, growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.

Certainly, in Leeds where is spent my formative years, we had huge events and it was a day in which children, from schools throughout the city looked forward to, practiced for and thoroughly enjoyed. There were gymnastic displays by the children, a huge parade through the centre of the city allowing floats bedecked with flowers and costumed characters from past and present to be seen by all. As the picture above shows these culminated in a huge ceremony in a large park. For me, my siblings and school friends it was like Christmas and birthdays; a really exciting time and a chance for us all to gather together and either watch other youngsters or perform in the ceremonies ourselves.

I wonder why such a popular the event seems to have lapsed, sometime in the 1960’s?

According to Wikipedia some 73 countries still have an annual dedicated Children’s Day. Add to that we have International Children’s Day (The World Conference for the Well-being of Children) and Universal Children’s Day (United Nations General Assembly 1954), days which were originally introduced as a time when we all celebrate childhood; but these now tend to be a day when we look at the plight of less fortunate children across the world (Not that I feel that should only happen on one day each year). Sadly, here in the UK, we have lost the dedicated day in which we celebrate the joy of children; making it a day of fun and enjoyment for them.

Some countries still encourage the giving of gifts and presents and indeed, make the day a  national holiday, while others combine it with religious holidays and feasts like Christmas but many, like the UK, don’t bother at all.

Is this a measure of how we value our children? I suspect not but is it another step in the destruction of childhood and desire for our children to grow up quickly and the continued disenfranchising of the nuclear family.

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