Tuesday, 26 April 2016

ANZAC Day and things I'm still learning

Well, jabberwockies, today (well, yesterday by the time you read this) is April 25th, ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and the name was given to the group of men who landed in Gallipoli in Turkey on April 25th, 1915. They were trying to capture Istanbul (then Constantinople), the capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. The attack lasted for eight months, and more than 8,000 Australians died. It was one of the greatest defeats in Australian history. (Source and source.)



There's a dawn service, but we've always gone to the morning one which is at a much more reasonable hour. For the past three years, I've marched down the road with my school in full formal uniform, sweating through my heavy blazer. (The bonus of having a blazer, though, is that you can sneak a small water bottle in your pocket.) The police, ambulance, RSL (Returned and Services League), the Lions Club, Rotary, Surf Life Saving and all the schools march down the street to the memorial statue at 9am while the marching band from the boy's school plays. I adore that band. Not only are they good, but they're so loud that you can feel the beat of the drum in your bones. There's nothing quite like hearing Waltzing Matilda right in your ears. (I have a thing for overly loud music, much to my family's despair.) (Also, sorry for a lack of pictures of the parade but I'm hesitant to put pictures of kids in their school uniforms online without permission.)



This year, I'm not in school so I went with my parents. I wore a nice dress and a huge hat and slapped on lots of sunscreen, and we watched my two siblings march past with their school.  The cadets stood around the memorial, and this year it was cooler so no one fainted (like they did the first year we were here). We watched from the street as members of the RSL and the school captain from the boy's school gave speeches (there are three high schools in town, a Catholic girl's, a Catholic boy's and the public high school. Every year we rotate, so last year for the 100th centenary of ANZAC Day my school made the speech and the year before was the public school's turn). I was quite excited to finally be able to watch the speakers this year. (Usually I'm with my school, and we always sat behind the memorial statue so we could never see anything. To my surprise, the speakers were actual people and not just disembodied, floating voices.) 



It always confused me to why ANZAC day was such a big deal. It's certainly celebrated more than November 11th here. It was a huge military failure and it wasn't even in defence of Australia but an invasion of Turkey. Where's the honour in celebrating that? But it was really only this year that I understood that Australians are remembering those who died fighting for a cause they believed in, and they're celebrating the ANZAC legacy that the ANZACs formed while fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The legacy was the courage, mateship, humour and endurance formed by the ANZACs, traits most Australians aspire to (and do) have. It was also the first year I was able to sing all the words of the first stanza of the Australian national anthem. (We don't sing it in the morning at school like we did in Canada, so it's taken me four ANZAC Days to learn it.) And while I don't know any of the words to the New Zealand anthem, it sounds very nice. 



So I finally understand ANZAC day. And as one of the speakers said, we do not glorify war but we honour the human spirit, which is what ANZAC day is all about. 

Have you ever heard of the ANZACs? (I'm afraid I don't know what the history curriculum in Canada or the USA is.) What do you do for Remembrance Day? And is there anything  in particular you would like me to post about regarding Canada/Australia/travel/culture/whatever? 

8 comments:

  1. I've heard of ANZAC's, but wouldn't have been able to tell you what they were. Awesome post!

    We call Remembrance Day "Veterans Day" here in the U.S. (I actually didn't know that until just now). Outside of D.C. (the Capitol) and the classroom, it's not a huge holiday, at least in my experience.

    We do have Memorial Day, which is our "unofficial" start of summertime. It's the last Monday in May and there are typically parades and decorations of veterans' graves with flags and flowers. It tends to be celebrated a little more intentionally, though I wish we did a little more for it.

    I would love to hear more about your holidays! Holidays are so much fun to learn about.

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed and maybe learned something.

      Ah, Veterans Day sounds vaguely familiar. That's on Nov. 11th, right? Same as our Remembrance Day? Memorial Day sounds pretty cool, and it sounds a lot like ANZAC Day with the parades and flags and flowers.

      Alright, I'll have to get something up :) (I like writing about my holidays, too :D ) Thanks for the comment, RM!

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  2. I went to the dawn service with my mum, here in NZ. It's always such a touching experience, and a fresh reminder each year. It look me a long time to work out why we 'celebrate' ANZAC day, but over the last few years I've really come to understand what it is about.

    I'm glad you like our anthem! Did they have it in Māori and then English, or just English? We always sing it in both languages, so I'd be curious to know :) I have to admit, when they played the Australian one, I'm not sure I liked it that much, sorry :/

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    1. That' so nice that you went to the dawn service with your mom. I agree, it is quite touching, especially when you see the veterans marching in the parade.

      Your anthem is quite beautiful :) We just sang it in English, but I would have loved to hear it in Maori. Ha, that's alright, I don't think the Australian anthem is the most beautiful, either, even though I still enjoy singing it. Thanks for commenting, Opal!

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  3. Rainbow Magic Fairy26 April 2016 at 18:48

    It is so cool how all the schools and town members march, such a special reminder of the ANZAC's, I especially love how the school students get to represent their voice in the speeches :)
    Awesome post!

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    1. Isn't it so awesome? Yeah, it's quite a nice thing to have the veterans from the wars then have the students and the new voices of Australia all participating in the same event for the same reason. Your speech was very nice last year, by the way! :D

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  4. Yesssss, the meaning of ANZAC day is a lot more than just remembering people who died. And I also wonder if it's such a big thing in Australia, too, because we lost SO many people? It's kind of nice that it's a celebration instead of something too sombre though. I didn't attend the parade this year. #shame But I remember marching when I was little!! And we almost always make ANZAC biscuits to celebrate too. :')

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    1. Indeed. I really only understood that this year though, and I think it's because I didn't grow up with the knowledge of the ANZACs. Uh, probably. 8,000 people is a lot when your population isn't too big. Shame on you, Cait ;) And I love ANZAC biscuits. They are the best. Thanks for commenting!

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