Jubilee – Word of the Week
Noun: A celebration, usually of a big anniversary (50, 60 or 75 years)
Original Meaning: Rejoicing, a year of celebration
It’s Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee this weekend, and everyone in the UK is gearing up for the party. But why is it called a “jubilee?” The word jubilee comes from an old French word, which means a celebration – often lasting as long as a year, or to celebrate a big anniversary.
A “jubilee” was usually held to celebrate very important anniversaries, such as a 50th wedding anniversary. It is also used when a company or a university celebrates its 50th, 100th or 200th birthday, and so on.
The word originally came from Biblical times, in which the Israelite people were commanded to make every 50th year a “jubilee” year. In jubilee years no farming was done, no taxes were collected, and slaves were set free (it was supposed to be a “year of rest”).
Where Does the “Diamond” Part Come From?
The 60th anniversary of the queen’s reign is called the “Diamond Jubilee”. The “diamond” part comes from the Western tradition of giving gifts made of different things for each anniversary (usually wedding anniversaries).
On that list, diamonds are given on the 60th anniversary. However, they were originally used only for 75th birthdays – until Queen Victoria had her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 – the 60th year of her reign.
The reason for this was because Queen Victoria had not been seen in public much since the death of her husband a few years earlier, and so the government decided to hold a big celebration for her 60th year on the throne, and call it the “Diamond Jubilee”, to rebuild public interest in the royal family.
Ever since then, kings and queens all over the world who have made it to their 60th year have called it a Diamond Jubilee. In England, however, there hasn’t been a king or queen who reigned for 60 years before or since Victoria, until now.
Are you going to be in England for the Diamond Jubilee? Our summer English school in Russell Square is a great place to spend Britain’s warmer months, and see some of the celebrations!