Public Holidays in Australia

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Many of the public holidays in Australia follow the usual Western Christian days of celebration, with Christmas and Easter being the main holidays. But Australia does have a few of its own peculiar public holiday traditions. 

It’s fair to say that Australians love a public holiday. The long weekends are always a good opportunity to go to there beach, get out and explore the countryside or stay at home and indulge in a good old barbecue.

australia day (26 January)

australia dayAustralia Day is all about celebrating Australia and Australian culture.

So everyone gets a day off work to engage in unashamedly Aussie activities like going to the beach, having barbecues, playing cricket and getting dressed up in Aussie flags.

However, while its a proud day it also has its controversies.

Not surprisingly, Aboriginal people are not so keen on celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of convict ships from Britain in 1788. They prefer to refer to it as ‘Invasion Day’.

This is also one of the main days of the year for citizenship ceremonies when lots of new Aussies are made official.

anzac day (25 april)

One of the things that is noticeable about Australian culture is that they’re very proud of their ‘diggers’ or ANZAC’s.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corp and this day is a national day of remembrance for those who have lost their lives fighting in wars as part of the armed forces.

The date carries a lot of significance since it marks the anniversary of Gallipoli, the first major military action fought by the ANZAC’s where 8,000 soliders died.

Gallipoli etched a major scar on Australian society that is still apparent today. ANZAC Day is all about honouring those who lost their lives in Gallipoli as well as other subsequent conflicts that Australia has been drawn into.

The day always starts with a dawn service at local war memorials in towns around the country followed by a parade of current and past service men women.

It then progresses to the pub where people engage in a game called 2 Up, a traditional Aussie gambling game from the first World War where two coins are thrown in the air and players bet on which way they land.

ANZAC Day events are always very well attended with hundreds and thousands turning up for the dawn services. Many people also make the pilgramage to Gallipoli each year too.

The ANZAC spirit of ‘Lest We Forget’ is alive and kicking in Australian culture.

labour day

Like some other countries, Australia has an annual public holiday for Labour Day.

While most Aussies are probably not aware of the origins of Labour Day, its commemorates the trade union movements successful campaign to secure better working conditions (8 hour days) for the working classes.

There aren’t any particular celebrations that occur on this day, most people just enjoy an extra long weekend, which is probably very apt.

queen’s birthday

As a Commonwealth country Australia chooses to take a public holiday to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, which seems ironic given the UK doesn’t have one.

And, just to make it even more strange, it’s not even held on her birthday and every state has it in a different month.

In most states it is held in June but Queensland is in October and WA is in September.

Most people celebrate by enjoying another long weekend.

show day

Many towns and cities around Australia have ‘show days’. These are agricultural shows that run over several days with fairground rides and entertainment mixed in with various stalls and demonstrations.

Most regions will allocate one of the days of the show as a public holiday but the dates vary by town.

travel nq fast facts:

  • Other public holidays:
    • Easter is a 4-day weekend in March or April
    • Christmas Day and Boxing Day are 25-26 December
    • New Year’s Day is 1 January
  • Shops are not always closed on public holidays except for Christmas Day,

 

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