Anzac Day 101: What to expect in Australia on April 25

I can’t explain this, but although I’m a real anti-fan of war, I’m a big fan of Anzac Day. But of course, most of the world has no idea what Anzac Day is. A lot of people visiting Australia come across Anzac biscuits (I once posted an Anzac biscuit recipe) and I’ll always remember telling my English as a Second Language students here in Australia that Anzac Day was coming up; one student looked very excited and said, “You have a holiday for a biscuit!”

No, we don’t have a holiday for a biscuit (rather, vice versa, but I did love his idea), and since it is Anzac Day tomorrow, April 25, I thought I should explain a little – or at least my interpretation of it! For a start, the acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The date of April 25 commemorates a World War One battle in Turkey at a place we call Gallipoli (the modern Turkish name is Gelibolu, I think), when thousands of Australian and New Zealander troops died: the battle was in fact a bit of a disaster, but we see it as a time of nationalistic pride when we first fought as Australia, rather than just a distant off-shoot of England. To me it’s a typically Aussie characteristic that this important day doesn’t celebrate great victory, but rather “mateship”.

These days in Australia we use Anzac Day to honour all Australians who have served for our country in war and of course, particularly those who have given their lives. The most important part of the day, for me, is the dawn service; if you’re in Australia for Anzac Day, you will easily find a dawn service being held somewhere near you, and I’d encourage you to make the effort of getting up early for it! In Perth, the service at Kings Park is attended by thousands yet it’s so quiet. Later in the day, in many places around Australia, there is an Anzac Day parade.

And during the day, sometime, somewhere, you’re bound to hear this sad song, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. For me, it’s a beautiful song and it says a lot about Australia and Australians. I’ll be playing it tomorrow. Lest we forget.

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