December 23 – Royal Rulers' Birthdays

Posted on December 23, 2014

Today is the birthday of both Queen Silvia of Sweden AND Emperor Akihito of Japan—so today is a holiday in both of those countries.

Sweden's Queen Silvia was born in Germany on this date in 1943.

You may think, “Germany? I thought she was queen of Sweden!”

But before Silvia Sommerlath married King Carl XVI Gustaf, of Sweden, she lived in Germany and in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She worked at the Argentine Consulate in Germany, worked as a flight attendant, served as an educational host during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, and served as the Deputy Head of Protocol in the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She is a trained interpreter and knows six languages. German and Portuguese are her native languages, and she also speaks French, Spanish, English, and of course Swedish. She even knows some Swedish Sign Language!

Quite an accomplished queen!

Japan's Emperor Akihito was born in Tokyo, Japan, on this date in 1933.

He was born to be emperor; his parents were the Emperor and Empress who ruled Japan during World War II! (Remember, Japan bombed the U.S. at Pearl Harbor and fought bloody battles against the Allies for several years.) During the bombing of Tokyo, Akihito and his brother, both princes, were evacuated from the city, and when Americans occupied the country after Japan was beaten, Akihito was tutored in the English language and Western manners by an American librarian and author, Elizabeth Gray Vining.

Akihito only studied at a university briefly and never earned a degree; he was perhaps too was busy making official visits and doing other duties of Japanese royalty. He once said that being a Japanese royal was like being a robot.

But Emperor Akihito tried to bring the Imperial Family closer to the Japanese people, and he made a historic televised appearance in 2011, in response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami, urging his people to not give up hope, and to help one another. They also made a visit to refugees from the quake and tsunami. Apparently this sort of visit, while common for leaders of some nations, was extremely rare for Japanese royals.

Akihito has managed to follow one of his passions, fish biology. He has done research on fish (which means he is an ichthyologist), and he has published scholarly papers on his research. In 2007 he earned an honorary degree from a university.

So...what do people do on their royal rulers' birthday?

People in Japan can go onto the grounds of the Imperial Palace (which is usually closed to the public); they wave tiny Japanese flags and listen to the Emperor make a brief speech from a palace balcony.

The posh people of Sweden get to go to their queen's gala party to celebrate with her AND to raise money for charity. I couldn't spot any aspect of celebration with the average Swede, but I know that the whole greeting-the-populace-from-the-balcony thing is pretty big in Europe, so I bet Queen Silvia squeezes in some sort of greeting.

Also on this date:

Flight Firsts Day  

Night of the Radishes

Plan ahead:

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