Today, April 25, besides being my best friend's birthday, is known as Anzac Day in Australia. It is the most important national holiday, honoring past and present soldiers in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (hence ANZAC). April 25, 1915, Anzac troops set out on their first expedition as part of the Allied forces to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) but after eight months and 8,000 Australian casualties, the Allied forces were evacuated. The day of the landing, April 25, became a day of remembrance for all military personnel who served and died in action. It's a bit of a combination between Veterans Day and Memorial Day in the USA (Veterans Day celebrates all those who served and Memorial Day celebrates and remembers all those who died while serving. I confess, I had to look that one up). In terms of national significance, Anzac Day is on the level of the Fourth of July, garnering much more public support, participation, and pride than perhaps either Veterans or Memorial Day get back home these days. The day starts with a Dawn Service to commemorate the "stand-to" of waiting for enemy attack and have a silent vigil to remember those lost. The morning memorial ceremony includes a parade and ceremony that includes "an introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, a recitation, the Last Post, a period of silence, either the Rouse or the Reveille, and the national anthem" (see http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac_tradition.asp for more).
I attended the parade and memorial ceremony this morning. I love the feeling of national unity and shared emotion for a common cause and I was really excited to watch the parade. It started with a bagpiping group in full regalia and followed with various military branches and organizations as well as children from schools all around Lismore, and of course, veterans. The ceremony included all the elements above. The main address was given by a Major in the Australian army who works to promote rights of services for contemporary veterans. The ceremony was held at the Lismore cenotaph war memorial. Below are some photos of the parade and memorial.
It should also be noted that Anzac cookies are a popular part of this
day. Anzac cookies are rolled oat cookies that military wives
supposedly sent soldiers overseas because of their long shelf life.
Younger Australians seem to celebrate Anzac Day with several games of
"Two-Up", a coin tossing gambling game that Wikipedia says is best
played with pennies. How they play with pennies is beyond me since
Australia's lowest coin is the five-cent coin. Guess they stash all the
old pennies and bring them out once a year.
All in all,
today was a really nice insight to Australian culture and it was
beautiful sunny day. I'm a fan of any event that includes bagpipes.