How to celebrate Australia Day
On the 26th of January, only a month after we have started to recover from Christmas, Australia takes a national day off to celebrate Australia day.
Australia day is traditionally a day to celebrate the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales. Today the day is considered more of a celebration of the entire nation including its beautiful and diverse population and indigenous people* There is some controversy about the day which you can read more about below.
The first time we experienced this holiday, we were thrilled to be invited to our friends house. While we were there we took the opportunity to ask the group what traditions we had to experience for it to be a real ‘Australia day’.
Here is what we learnt:
. Have a BBQ – This one won’t come as a surprise. This day is at the height of Australian summer (my northern hemisphere brain will never get use to these hot Januarys) so it makes sense to spend the entire day outside and throw another shrimp on the Barbie (sorry not sorry for saying that Aussie friends). Burgers , hot dogs and steaks all around on this day as well as some delicious homemade salads.
. Eat Pavlova – Pavlova’s exist in the UK , but they aren’t a big part of our diet. Coming to live in Aus has opened my eyes to the joy of a good fruity Pavlova. The one we tried last year was chock-a-block with beautiful fresh fruit and caramel. It helps that the tropical climate of this place makes it very easy to smear coconut , pineapple and kiwis on everything.
. Drink Beer – Lee and I were very surprised to discover what a fantastic beer culture Australia has. It’s packed full of craft beer bars and home brewing stores. Lee has been bitten by the home brewing bug and has already fermented 5 ciders and 4 beers. The reasons for this countries love of beer may come from the heat, which makes it very easy to keep the yeast warm to ferment your own ale. Another reason may be out of necessity. A beer in a pub (or ‘hotels’ as all their pubs seem to be called due to licensing rules) would make you want to run back to London to buy a round. Don’t panic too much though because wine is dirt cheap. Woohoo! This country understands the greatness that is beer. It feels like it is an absolute fact that you must consume beer (and plenty of it) on Australia day. We aren’t complaining.
.Find a Pool – It’s going to be boiling so most people find a pool and don’t get out of it unless it’s to head to the Eskie (Aussie slang for cooler) to get a beer.
.Play backyard cricket – because there is so much space in Australia it has become tradition that families head to the garden and play a little friendly game of backyard cricket. We took this to the next level and played water bomb cricket, which I highly recommend.
.Listen to the Triple J radio show – The Triple J radio show would probably be the item on this list that our Australian friends refuse to miss. The Triple J show asks Australia to vote for its favourite songs of the year. The people vote and on Australia day the radio show plays a countdown from 100 – 1. It sounded really lame when I first heard about it (who’s still listening to their radios?), but it was actually really fun to listen to and have a recap of the years music. It was the perfect soundtrack to the day. The songs are normally not what you would call ‘mainstream’ songs so you get some gems in there that you wouldn’t normally catch while you’re listening to the radio in the car. I mocked you guys last year, but my work playlist still has quite a few songs on it that I discovered last year on the Triple J’s radio show. I’m on board.
.Wear the flag somewhere on your body – painted on your face, thongs (flip flops), hats, towels, diddly boppers, bikinis, pants…you name it. If it exists then you can find it with an Aussie flag on it for Australia day. It was fun to cover ourselves in excessive Aussie merch and be part of it all. Lee bought a cork hat especially for the day and was ordered to take the corks off of it so there are limits.
. Play Goon of Fortune – I have to admit we haven’t done this year, but it seems like a big deal. A goon bag is a bag of wine that comes in a box. It is normally not the best of brands and comes in a bag that fits about two and a half bottles of hooch. The silver bag has a tap at the bottom and the bag is attached to a spinning clothes line (from what I can gather from being told second hand). People then stand around the clothes line, spin it and if the good bag ends in front of you…then you are drinking! Bag-o-wine. Drinking…sign me up J
Overall it’s a day that gives everyone an excuse to get out of the boiling offices (or freezing offices if they love the air-con) and celebrate with friends. Enjoy the day off guys and remember to ‘advance Australia fair’….or something along those lines ???
*I really wanted to add an extra note here. In recent years it has been brought to light by a lot of the indigenous population that celebrating the day that your land was taken over and invaded is hurtful and insulting. This has led to many movements wanting to move Australia day to another time so that it is a celebration of the country as a whole rather than a day just to celebrate the anniversary of the English coming to steal it. I can completely understand this argument and I think it’s great that Australia, from what we’ve seen, is really starting to embrace its aboriginal people and their culture, even more so than in the past. This may be a bias view because we have mainly been around creative young people who are passionate about their countries original origins. It’s hard to tell.
While being here I have met Aboriginal Australian’s who have had mixed opinions on the 26th of January. Some feeling it should be changed as a mark of respect. Others feeling that it is fine to stay the same, others thinking they should keep the day but change it’s name and meaning. As an outsider I have no idea what Australia’s solution to this problem of ‘Australia Day vs. Invasion Day’ is, but I hope they can come to a conclusion that celebrates all aspects of this fantastic country. To read more about this important issue please read both sides of the argument here: https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australia-day-invasion-day