A third of the world’s population has reason to celebrate on this day: we’re talking about World Children’s Day. In 1954 a plenary session of the United Nations commissioned the children’s charity UNICEF to organise a global children’s day. The idea was enthusiastically received from the start, and about 150 countries
now take part.
And yet there is no single agreed date for World Children’s Day. “It’s a purely voluntary affair,” says Rudi Tarneden, UNICEF spokesperson for Germany, “and to impose a particular day would contradict that principle.” Which means that every country has its own, regionally appropriate date. The dates are scattered across the year in accordance with the motto ‘Every day is a children’s day.’
Spain celebrates World Children’s Day on the second Sunday in May, Chile on the first Saturday in August, France and Britain on 20 November. Thailand celebrates
it at the beginning of the year, in January; Turkey and Mexico in April; South Korea on 1 May. Japan has designated 5 May as World Children’s Day and as a national holiday. And in the USA, Russia, China and a number of other countries, particularly socialist 12.10. ones, children’s day is traditionally 1 June. This occasion has an alternative name, ‘International Children’s Day’. The Scandinavian countries also celebrate it in June; Brazil follows on 12 October, India on 14 November and Finland on 20 November.
But whatever the day, the aims are the same: “We have to remind adults that
if children are doing well, so is society in general,” says Rudi Tarneden. He
thinks that the tradition many countries have, of giving children presents on the
day, makes particularly good sense if the presents enable parents and children
to play together. “What children all over the world want most is for their parents
to have more time for them.” Germany gives them that opportunity on three
Along with UNICEF’s World Children’s Day on 20 September, Germany’s new
regions traditionally celebrate a children’s day on 1 June. This date has spread with dizzying speed from the new regions to the rest of the country. Last comes
20 November, the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This day focuses especially on the political implementation of children’s rights.
Ulrich Brobeil, legal advisor to the German Toymakers’ Association, has a special
wish in this context: “I would like a single day with centralised events,” he says. Children’s Day should be firmly anchored in society at large, just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and, more recently, St Valentine’s Day. And, as Brobeil points out, many children already see 1 June as ‘their’ day. “A primary school teacher told me that children talk well in advance about what they’re going to do on Children’s Day. Hence, there’s now a range of events on 1 June: the Bundestag has issued a press release and many media have adopted this date as Children’s Day.”
There is, of course, an economic side to all this. The toy industry would be very pleased to see a second buying frenzy in the middle of the year, conveniently timed before the long summer holiday. That doesn’t apply only to Germany, it applies worldwide. So this Day offers the toy industry a great opportunity. “But on this day we should never lose sight of the fact that we need to give all children a real experience of childhood, a childhood worthy of the name,” says Rudi Tarneden, summing up UNICEF’s ambition for the Day.