King Letsie III has been constitutional monarch of Lesotho since 1990, except for a brief period in 1996 when his father Moshoeshoe II returned to power. After his father died in a car accident in 1996, Letsie continued his reign, and his birthday on 17 July is a national holiday.
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Since 2003, the royal birthday celebration has had its main events rotated to different parts of the country. This move has given greater exposure to the holiday and led to each year’s celebration being very unique.
Just before official events begin for King Letsie III’s Birthday, there are ceremonies wherein medals and special awards are distributed to worthy soldiers, police, and private citizens. There is a also a 21-gun salute, festive singing of the national anthem, special prayers for the nation, a military parade, and an emphasis on traditional music and dance. Many also greet the king or cheer wildly upon seeing him in person.