This weekend marks a very significant occasion for citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. It has been 100 years since the landing of the first troops in Gallipoli, the ANZACs (The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). 25 April marked the beginning of a fierce campaign that would last for eight months and resulted in extensive casualties for both the allied troops and Ottoman Turkish defenders.
The 25th of April has henceforth been set aside as the day which we commemorate the sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand troops killed in military operations. (If you would like to know more about Gallipoli and the ANZACs I found this website particularly helpful).
Although my family only became Australian citizens in 1983 and my forefathers fought under the British flag rather the Australian, I still hold this day in the deepest respect. I count myself incredibly lucky and proud to be an Australian citizen, the lives we have been able to live as Australians have been made possible by the sacrifices of the men and women who came before us.
ANZAC day is traditionally observed by dawn services as well as local community commemorative marches. I remember my brothers as boy scouts then air cadets marching with my deceased grandfather’s medals proudly displayed. I will admit to not fully understanding the importance of the event at the time. Other traditions include the baking of ANZAC biscuits, playing a veterans favourite game of “two-up” (the only day it is legal outside casinos) and in the last 20 years the annual AFL football match between Essendon and Collingwood.
It is days like these though where I really feel the distance from home. We do what we can as expats to mark important events from home, whether it’s attending a dawn service, or raising a can with mates watching the footy. This has really got me thinking today, what are the most uniquely Australian events that I miss the most living away from home?
Here are 5 truly Australian events that I miss;
Australia Day – It’s the biggest and most patriotic of them all. This is the day that we celebrate the birth of the modern nation of Australia, based on day of the landing of the first fleet in Botany Bay on 26 January 1788. Of course not without controversy like many ‘founding days’ for nations as some also view this as a day of loss for indigenous Australians. Regardless, Australia Day to me means marking our nations unification, attending community events and celebrating what it means to be Australian whether its favourite foods, music or mateship.
Melbourne Cup & Spring Racing Carnival – who doesn’t want to dress up and look pretty, pack a picnic and drink some champers on the lawn (or in a corporate tent if you’re lucky!). We were regular attendees at Epsom and Ascot race meets and even went to the Grand National one year in the UK – great fun, but still not the same as the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival!
They call the Melbourne Cup the race that stops the nation and it really does. Ever since I was a wee tacker I remember eagerly reading through the form guide in the morning (ie picking jockey colours) and Dad would take our money down to the TAB, everyone holding their breath for 3pm on that first Tuesday in November. As I grew older there were parties and sweepstakes, then attending the race yourself! And if you lived in Victoria a day off, doesn’t get much more fun than that right?! How about a week-long carnival of race meets… I can’t wait until our little ones are old enough to experience the excitement, and Mr H wants to teach them about odds and form guides!
AFL Grand Final Day – (bare with me it’s not all about sport, but quite a bit, we are Australian!) This is another one I hold dear as I really love my Aussie Rules Football. No matter where I have lived in the world I have not missed watching a grand final live since 2000 – from underground bars in Munich to 4.30am wake up calls and the Walkabout in London, it is the match of the year. Bragging rights attached to the winning team are critical as is ones stamminer!
Back in the day we would always celebrate at someone’s home with sweepstakes and shot games followed by kick-to-kick in the park. I am still slightly surprised though that the Victorian state government has now declared the day before the Grand Final as a public holiday, but hey I’ll take it.
Christmas Day – there’s a lot to be said for cold weather Christmases; sitting in a toasty warm house, eating roasts with all the trimmings, drinking mulled wine and listening to the ever repetitive Noddy Holder Christmas selection while hoping upon hope it might be a white Christmas for that greeting card perfect moment. But this is not the Christmas from my childhood; warm weather, backyard cricket, carols by candlelight, barbeques and cask wine bring back fond memories. And that infamous year the dog shat under the Christmas tree.
We have created our own family tradition over the years and now hold an annual ‘orphans’ Christmas party every year the weekend before Christmas. We have the warm weather now too, but it’s just an ordinary day of the week in the UAE, no day off or warm buzzing glow as people commence their traditional annual breaks, no Christmas Eve panic shopping. (The shops have certainly worked out how to cash in mind you.) The large majority of Christian expats do take the day off and brunches and other events are held but it just doesn’t hold the same spirit. Such a shame that airlines double, even triple the cost of flights home at this time of year.
Easter long weekend – now I’m not terribly religious but this one makes the cut for quite a different reason, it’s a four day weekend! Well it is in Australia, marking Good Friday and Easter Monday (in fact there was even an Easter Tuesday too when I was growing up!). To me it was always the marking of the change of the seasons, the last weekend to get out and do something before the cooler weather kicks in (in the southern states). My later years before leaving Australia it was all about camping trips and getting into the great outdoors, losing yourself for a while before the winter set in (and footy season!)
I miss all of these things but we do what we can to replicate the events and surround ourselves with our fellow countrymen wherever we live to share in what these events mean to us. I will be attending the ANZAC sunset service tomorrow evening to mark what this means to me, and I am thankful to live in a country where our right to observe this occasion is peacefully respected.
What are the events from your home country that you miss the most? What brings out your patriotic side or a tear to the eye when you know you’re missing it?
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