The 25th of April is a date every Australian and New Zealander is acutely aware of. To this day, Anzac day remains arguably the most important and unified celebration in Australia. And while time has changed memory into history and legend, Gallipoli remains an integral part of Australian heritage. Everyone knows the story of the Anzacs, but what does it all mean today?
While Anzac Day began to commemorate the 1915 battle of Gallipoli, today it serves to honour all servicemen. Here and across the ditch to New Zealand, veterans are remembered and thanked on this special day. Interestingly, the importance of Anzac Day has fluctuated over the years but has never been stronger than today. Younger generations of Australians have thankfully not known wartimes. However, many believe this has given newfound respect and understanding for this memorial day. Our current times of peace are owed to the heroic men and women who risked their lives through history.
Many traditions surround this day of remembrance. Unfortunately, this year the visit to Gallipoli beach undertaken by many Australians is off the table once again. Instead, around the country, dawn services and gunfire breakfasts (coffee and rum) can be observed. Alongside this, marches are organised by RSL’s in many cities allowing veterans and families to walk in remembrance. Many will also follow this up by lunch or event thrown in their honour.
Some of the more exciting traditions surrounding Anzac Day also include the “two-up” gambling game. The only day venues can play this game involving throwing coins in the air and guessing the outcome. We are also fond of our many Anzac songs, which accompany the more traditional music and poetry. And let’s not forget the infamous “Anzac Day Match” held on the Melbourne Cricket Grounds each year. AFL clubs Essendon and Collingwood battle it out each Anzac Day as their tribute to the fallen heroes. The complete silence observed by the thousands of spectators before the game shows the depth of respect felt by all.
Finally one of the most well-known traditions, and the only one allowed to use the “Anzac” name – Anzac biscuits. A couple of theories exist on where these treats originated from and their rapport with the Anzacs. Some believe they were sent by wives to their husbands on the battlefields as they did not spoil quickly. Some say instead that they were sold back home to raise funds for the war. Regardless, today these oats and syrup infused goodies remain extremely popular and relevant to the Anzac name. They are still used as fundraisers by RSL’s and often sold in specially decorated tins. To be legally allowed to use the name “Anzac”, biscuits must be made according to the original recipe. And, perhaps most importantly, they may under no circumstance be referred to as “cookies” – honest, it’s the law!
We are fortunate in Australia to live in these peaceful times, in significant part thanks to Anzacs and their legacies. So remember the dawn services and marches, maybe have a gunfire breakfast? Be sure to get your Anzac biscuits, and don’t forget to tune in for the game. And most importantly, remember them who gave their lives for our futures. Lest we forget.