I know it from the Australian perspective. So ANZAC day is a day for both Australia and New Zealand, but I know Australians celebrate it this way. You take a pause in the morning–well we celebrated it then–to remember the fallen soldiers. It’s for the first World War. It’s supposed to be everyone, but it’s when they landed in Gallipoli, which I think is in Turky or somewhere in the Middle East, and a bunch of people died. It’s similar to American memorial day. It’s like the whole country stops, and it’s like you have a toast to them. We did it with orange juice. Then, the rest of the day, you celebrate. I think the morning toast is called the Dawn Service to commemorate the attack. They were slaughtered.
Background/Context: This was told to me by my father. He lived in Australia in ’84 for one year when he was 15 years old with his older brothers, who were high school and college-aged. There were no parents, and they were not used to being such a white country as Australia. My dad is Filipino, but he spent most of his childhood in Papua New Guinea.
After visiting Australia myself, I think in part this is such a big tradition because this was the first time Australia sent large numbers to fight in far away shores. They didn’t have to, which made it even more devestating. WWI was awful, and this is one of the lasting memories. Like my dad said, it reminds me of Memorial day, but it seems more emotional.
According to the informant, there is a traditional service that occurs during the annual Anzac Day holiday (Australian equivalent of Veteran’s Day). Every year, it is traditional to attend a Dawn Service (named after the time of day when it occurs) at one of the many WWI soldier memorial shrines located across the country. The ceremony begins with the playing of a military tune by a bugle player. This is followed by two minutes of silence and several commemorative speeches made by various military officials. Although it is not required, many wear red Poppy flowers on their chests, which were originally meant a sign of respect for the soldiers that were lost during the WWI Gallipoli Campaign. These now honor the deaths of all Australian soldiers, however. Others like to leave wreaths at the shrine to honor the sacrifices that these soldiers made.
The informant, Angus Guthrie, is a 20 year old student who was born and raised in Australia. Because he and his family have been in the country for a very long time, he believes that he is quite familiar with Australian folklore and traditions. Angus claims that it is impossible for any true Australians to be unfamiliar with the Dawn Ceremony, as it is a national holiday that is instrumental to Australian identity. All parents are expected to teach their children to respect the holiday and to participate in its ceremonies. Even when Angus was not in Australia one year for the Anzac Day holiday, he was still encouraged to find and attend a Dawn Ceremony nearby. Angus felt a deep desire to express his strong emotional connection to the ceremony and to the holiday in general, as it is a yearly event that unites all Australians and incites a strong sense of national brotherhood. This is because the ceremony is now used to honor the soldiers that perished during all Australian battles, not just during the Gallipoli Campaign.
The Dawn Ceremony is interesting because it seems far more revered and complex than the Veterans Day ceremonies us Americans usually experience. While we do attend parades and memorial services, we do not wake up early in the morning and travel to shrines in mass numbers like the Australians do. It would also seem strange for an American to attend a memorial service in a different country. While the reasons behind these differences may be difficult to find, what is certain is that national events like the Dawn Ceremony are essential for unifying the Australian nation.