Commonwealth Covenant Day is celebrated on March 24 every year. This day marks the founding of the commonwealth union between the United States and the Northern Mariana Islands (N.M.I.). As a public holiday, commercial establishments, businesses, banks, schools, and government offices close on this day. While most take the day off to rest, school administrators and educators take to the streets and hold a roadside flag-waving event to celebrate the country’s political union with NMI. Learn more about the ways that you too can celebrate Commonwealth Covenant Day today.
History of Commonwealth Covenant Day
The islands have a rich history of multiple colonizations throughout their existence. It first became a Spanish colony in the 1500s where Spain’s power and control lasted for centuries, heavily influencing their culture, language, and economy. However, the German Empire took possession of the islands in 1899, but that only lasted until World War I. Following Germany’s defeat in the war against Japan in 1919, the Japanese empire gained control of the N.M.I. after the League of Nations awarded them all the islands above the equator.
The island’s political relations with the U.S. started after Japan’s defeat in World War II. The U.S. helped administer the N.M.I.’s Security Council Resolution 21 as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The U.S. was assigned the defense of the island.
For a brief period, there was a movement to make Guam a part of the N.M.I. This was pursued in 1958, 1961, and 1963. However, Guam resisted and decided to remain part of U.S. territory and officially rejected the integration under the 1969 memorandum. By then, the island had to decide whether it would become an independent nation free from any outside control or develop a union with the U.S. By 1975, the majority of the N.M.I.’s population voted for a commonwealth covenant with the U.S. rather than be an independent country. On March 24, 1976, the memorandum took effect and on January 9, 1978, a new government and constitution came into being under the 1977 memorandum.
Commonwealth Covenant Day timeline
Spain gains control of the N.M.I.
Germany colonizes the N.M.I., which lasts until World War I.
The League of Nations awards Japan the N.M.I. along with other islands above the equator.
A memorandum for the N.M.I. to be a U.S. commonwealth territory takes effect.
Commonwealth Covenant Day FAQs
Where are the Northern Mariana Islands located?
The Northern Mariana Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and Hawaii.
What are the official languages of Northern Mariana Islands?
The three official languages of the Northern Mariana Islands are English, Chamorro, and Carolinian.
Can U.S. citizens live in the Northern Mariana Islands?
Yes, U.S. citizens can work and live in Northern Mariana Islands visa-free.
Commonwealth Covenant Day Activities
Join the roadside waving
One of the newest ways to celebrate Commonwealth Covenant Day is to join the roadside waving festivities. This was first done on March 24, 2022, with the hopes of becoming an annual event. So, grab the national flag and feel the sense of community.
Celebrate through food festivities
Because of its rich history, it’s no doubt that the N.M.I.’s food culture has been a melting pot of international cuisine. Grab your cookbook and prepare the most delicious Papuan, Hawaiian, and Spanish-inspired dishes for your family to enjoy.
Watch “The Insular Empire”
A documentary called “The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas” takes a deep dive into the N.M.I.’s rich history and how it molded the country into what it is today. It’s a good film to watch with kids for them to learn about their cultural and historical identity.
5 Interesting Facts About The N.M.I.
The first settlers
The first settlers in the N.M.I. were called ‘Chamorros’ who are indigenous people from southeast Asia.
It has magnificent beaches
The N.M.I.’s southern islands are completely made of limestone and coral reefs.
A mild tropical climate
The archipelago experiences rainy and dry seasons all year long.
The average life expectancy
People in the N.M.I. have an average life expectancy of 77 years.
Its population is small
The archipelago only has a population of 55,000.
Why We Love Commonwealth Covenant Day
It inspires a spirit of community
The festivities held during Commonwealth Covenant Day ignite unity and camaraderie. The sight of locals coming together and waving their national flag is simply awe-inspiring.
It has a rich history
The NMI has existed through various international colonies since the 1500s. It’s fascinating to learn about its rich history and layered culture.
A chance to educate the new generation
Passing on the nation’s identity through holidays like this is the best way to encourage patriotism. The older generation should be proactive in educating the youth to preserve the country’s history.
Commonwealth Covenant Day dates