Anzac Day, held on 25 April each year, is probably the most important public holiday for Australians. It is also celebrated in New Zealand.
The word ANZAC stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps”. On the 25th of April 1915, in World War I, soldiers from Australian and New Zealand joined allied forces to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. Over 40,000 died in the battle, among them 8,709 Australians. Although the battle was a defeat, it was the first time Australians fought in a major war for their nation.
The main Anzac Day events are the Dawn Service and the ANZAC March, with both held in all cities and even the smallest towns all over the country.
The service includes poems, prayers, hymns, and a speech recalling the brave deeds of the Anzacs. The service can also include the laying of wreaths, lowering the flag to half mast, and blowing the “Last Post” on a bugle.
The main service in Melbourne is held at the Shrine of Remembrance in the southwest corner of the Botanical Gardens, just off St Kilda Road. Services are also held in most suburbs, usually at the local branch of the RSL (Returned and Services League).
The march includes all former or current serving military veterans who wish to take part. In Melbourne, the march begins at 9am at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets, and proceeds down St Kilda Road to the Shrine of Remembrance.
A Victorian Anzac Day tradition since 1995 is a football match between AFL teams Collingwood and Essendon. A portion of the ticket sales is donated to the RSL. Collingwood has won the match most often, but last year Essendon won, breaking a three-year losing streak.
The best way to find out about Anzac Day events in your area is to check your Council website. For more information about Anzac Day, there is a dedicated website at anzacday.org.au.