ANZAC Day Traditions ANZAC day occurs on April 25th, and is one of Australia’s most important national holidays. It is the day that New Zealand and Australia’s military forces fought its first major battle during World War I.
ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The forces eventually became known as ANZACS and the soldiers took great pride in the name, which endures even to this day.
When WWI began in 1914, Australia had only been a commonwealth country for 13 years. The new government was eager to build a strong reputation with the rest of the world. Australian and New Zealand forces banded together in 1915 and set out on an expedition to capture the Gallipoli peninsula, in order to open it up to Dardanelles, the allied natives. The main objective was to overtake Constantinople, which is now known as Istanbul and Turkey.
The New Zealand and Australian forces landed on Gallipoli on April 25th, and were met with fierce resistance from the opposition. What was originally planned as a bold and quick takeover actually lasted over eight months, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. By the end of 1915, the allied forces evacuated, with over 8,000 Australian and New Zealand casualties.
The landing of the forces on April 25thmade a strong impact with Australians and that day became a remembrance of those who had perished. Even though the Gallipoli initiative was a failure, it left a strong legacy, and helped shaped the past and future of both nations. The day became known as “ANZAC DAY” in 1916. The day was celebrated with several ceremonies in Australia, a London march that included over 2,000 New Zealand and Australian troops, and a sports day at an Australian camping Egypt. It became a national day of commemoration during the 1920’s and in 1927, every state got involved in some way or another to mark the holiday. By the 1930’s, the tradition was firmly established and the vigils, marches, reunions, games, and ceremonies are still associated with the holiday to this day.
The day also became used to commemorate those who had died in WWII. It was first commemorated in 1942 and since there were government bans on large public displays -for fear of a Japanese attack -it was a small affair. It continues to act as a memorial each year.
Today, Australians recognize April 25th as a national day of remembrance. There are two parts to the holiday. The first occurs at dawn, in the form of memorial services. Dawn marks the time of the Gallipoli landing. Later in the day, past service men and women take part in marches throughout the major cities and some smaller regions as well. There are also several ceremonies which are more formal and take place at war memorial sites across the country. On this day, Australians reflect on the several different meanings of war and how it touched their own lives.
ANZAC day is to Australians what November 11th is to many North Americans â€“ a time for reflection, and remembering those who gave their lives for our freedom.