Friday, April 25, 2008

Anzac Day

Today is Anzac Day. Anzac Day is an important holiday in both Australia and New Zealand. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps [a corps is a big group of people working together. It’s pronounced “Korr”), whose soldiers were known as the Anzacs. Anzac Day remembers all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who have died in war.

The Anzacs first fought together in World War One. April 25th 1915 is the day the Anzacs first landed at Gallipoli, in Turkey. Their goal was to travel inland from Gallipoli and take Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was helping Germany in the war.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work. The Anzacs were stuck on the beach at Gallipoli for 8 months. Conditions were very bad. Many soldiers - both the Anzacs and the defending Turks - were wounded. Many others got sick. Finally, the Anzacs had to retreat. In that time, more than 8,000 Australian and 2,700 New Zealand soldiers were killed.

Australia and New Zealand were relatively “new” countries. Even though the Gallipoli attack had been a failure, the determination and sacrifice of the Anzacs had a big impact on the national identity of both countries.

Anzac Day starts with a dawn service (a Christian ceremony to remember the dead, held at dawn [just as the sun begins to rise]). Later in the morning, parades are held in almost every town and city across both countries. Veterans [returned soldiers] march through the streets followed by active soldiers, and other uniformed service groups. The parades usually finish at monuments remembering the war dead, where more ceremonies are held. As part of these ceremonies, wreaths [circles of flowers] are placed at the feet of the monuments and buglers play “The Last Post” [a very sad sounding piece of music].

Returned soldiers march in an Anzac Day Parade

A bugler plays “The Last Post”

People lay wreaths

In the afternoon (or the weekend before), various sporting events are held to commemorate the day. The most notable of these is the Anzac Test Match, a rugby league game played between the Australian and New Zealand national teams.

After all the ceremonies and games are finished, parties are held for the veterans. These parties often take place in pubs or Returned Servicemen’s Clubs (RSL’s). During the First World War, soldiers often relaxed by playing gambling games. The most popular game was “Two-Up,” a simple coin-tossing game. Although it’s now illegal, games of “Two-Up” are usually an important part of the veterans’ parties.

A “Two-Up” board


The 1981 Peter Weir movie Gallipoli is a moving retelling of the Anzac story. This movie is also famous for introducing a very young Mel Gibson to international audiences.


Tonight, Murphy's Irish Pub, in Shinsaibashi, is holding an Anzac Day party, featuring Australian and New Zealand beers and Australian meat pies.

On Sunday, Tin's Hall, in Tennoji, is holding an Anzac BBQ from 5:00 pm. They’ll be serving Australian and New Zealand beers and food, and playing Aussie & Kiwi music all night. At 9:30 pm they’ll observe a minutes silence in memory of the Anzacs.

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