If you happen to be Down Under on the 25th of April, join thousands of Australians around the country in a dawn vigil, witness one of the official ANZAC Day parades, or simply join in on a game of two-up at the pub.
April 25th is one of Australia’s most important national occasions, marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during the First World War. As members of the Commonwealth, Australian and New Zealand soldiers were shipped out around the world to support their ally troops, with a large portion of them arriving in Gallipoli on April 25. Sadly more than 60,000 Australians lost their lives during the course of the war, which is today commemorated back home with a wide variety of vigils, marches, ceremonies and services held across the country. These rituals were firmly established as part of ANZAC Day culture, and are honoured each year by Australians all over the country who come together to remember and pay their respects. Here’s how you can get involved in the day.
How to get there
Events are scattered across the country, with parades in all capital cities and some large towns, vigils and dawn ceremonies at many RSL clubs (Returned and Services League of Australia), and two-up games played at most local pubs. Join thousands of people who converge on Canberra each year to witness the official commemoration ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial.
At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the National Ceremony includes a full day of events beginning with the traditional order of service at sunrise, the veteran’s march, the official laying of wreaths, the sounding of the Last Post, and observance of one minute’s silence. Thousands of people converge on the site each year to pay their respects by partaking in any or all of the above. There were also a large portion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought as part of the ANZAC forces, and they are commemorated with a ceremony held at the Aboriginal Memorial plaque on the side of Mount Ainslie. Don’t leave without seeing the Memorial’s Roll of Honour, with thousands of names adorned with bright red poppies.
Attend a moving Dawn Service
The Dawn Service is an integral part of the ANZAC Day’s commemorations, taking place at many memorials around the country, beginning before sunrise (check exact times for your location) with a moving bugler sounded, followed by two minutes of silence, and attendees laying their wreaths and floral tributes. Head to Martin Place in Sydney’s city centre or North Bondi RSL for a beachside service. In Melbourne visit the Shrine of Remembrance in the Royal Botanic Gardens or the Shrine of Remembrance in Brisbane’s city centre to show your respects.
Put your baking mitts on
ANZAC Day biscuits are a quintessential April 25 treat you can buy at most bakeries and supermarkets. But better yet, why don’t you try your hand at baking them from scratch? The ingredients are simple, and were included in care packages by the women of Australia particularly because they wouldn't spoil on the long journey abroad to their soldier husbands, brothers, and sons. Many Australians spend ANZAC Day with their families, bunkered down with a hot cup of tea and a couple of these bikkies (biscuits). Culinary queen Donna Hay has a tried and tested recipe that stays true to the original.
Watch an ANZAC Day match
Sporting events are a huge part of ANZAC Day in Australia, and thousands of Aussies take to their local sporting stadium to cheer on their favourite team. One of the biggest matches is the annual Australian Rules Football (AFL) match between Collingwood and Essendon held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In Sydney, you can watch the National Rugby League (NRL) match between The Sydney Roosters and the St. George Illawarra Dragons. Pre-game and halftime generally include moving services, musical performances from military bands and even paratroopers dropping from the sky into the centre of the stadium.
Play a round of two-up
Simply put, two-up is a traditional Australian gambling game that is only legal on ANZAC Day. It involves a designated "spinner" throwing two coins or pennies into the air. Players bet on whether the coins will fall with both heads up (obverse), both tails up (reverse), or with one coin a head and one a tail (known as "Ewan"). It is traditionally played on ANZAC Day in pubs and clubs throughout Australia, and punters have been known to get quite rowdy. Bring a bit of cash for betting and take part in the fun to mark a shared experience with the Australian soldiers who played the simple game throughout World War I.