Australia and New Zealand celebrate Anzac Day, a public holiday commemorating all the people that served in the military and died for their country. The holiday began specifically to honour fallen soldiers from World War I but has since expanded on that concept. It is celebrated each year on 25 April with a variety of parades, marches, and ceremonies throughout both countries.
The name of the holiday is actually an acronym. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. These soldiers were known as Anzacs. Historically, this holiday represents the first time that the Australian and New Zealand forces came together to fight overseas during World War I. They were part of a mission to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula. Today, Anzac Day also celebrates forces from World War II.
Celebrations Today in Australia
Throughout Australia commemorative parades and services are held at dawn on the morning of 25th April. These parades aren't festive events with cheery music; they have a more respectful tone. The day is full of traditions, including one slightly cheeky one, called the 'gunfire breakfast' - coffee with rum added - that is reminiscent of a soldier's breakfast before going into battle.
This public holiday also includes marches of veterans from all past wars as well as current service members. The parade from each state capital is televised live and watched by many households. Commentary helps people at home to know what is going on during these parades and marches. Veterans of all ages proudly march in their communities on Anzac Day.
Celebrations Today in New Zealand
The activities planned for Anzac Day in New Zealand are similar to the celebrations in Australia. Parades and memorials held at dawn are attended by the New Zealand Defence Force, police, fire service, and local pipe bands. Bright red paper poppies are distributed and worn widely as a symbol of remembrance for the soldiers.
On this public holiday, shops are not allowed to open before 1 p.m. in New Zealand. International visitors will want to keep this in mind when planning a trip to New Zealand that might coincide with Anzac Day. Most celebrations are held in the morning and by the afternoon, stores begin to open (though not all stores will open on the holiday).
Anzac Day and Travel
Of all the public holidays, Anzac Day has a bit of a solemn feeling to it. This is definitely a commemoration rather than a celebration. At the same time, it is still a day off from work, and many people decide to travel and get away from home when the opportunity arises.
For this reason, be sure to make your travel plans in advance if possible. Investigate holiday rentals and make a booking before your choices become limited. Choose a rental with all the amenities you need for a relaxing weekend, from a big chef's kitchen for cooking family meals to a private pool for swimming with the kids.
(photo courtesy of Chris Phutully)