Anzac Day traditions

Anzac Day traditions

Anzac Day traditions

Updated 24 April 2014, 14:50 AEST

Anzac Day on April 25 is one of the most important national occasions in Australia.  It's a day to reflect on the meaning of war and to honour those who have served their country.  For many its a day that begins before sunrise with activities that continue throughout the day.

April 25 marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand troops during the First World War.  

The term ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers that landed at Gallipoli, Turkey on 25 April 1915 became known as Anzacs and today Anzac Day commemorates the bravery and sacrifice of all Australian military personnel.

Here are some of the ways Australians will be spending their national Anzac day holiday on April 25.

Dawn service
Dawn service
Dawn service
ABC Licenced: Joe Castro AAP
Dawn services have been held since the 1920s and nowadays more people are turning out than ever before.

In all Australian capital cities and most towns across the country, people gather at dawn to remember the Anzacs.

Some services can be a simple gathering of a few people observing a minute of silence. Larger services are attended by thousands of people, including dignitaries and veterans. The more elaborate services are conducted by a chaplain and incorporate hymns, readings, pipers, the laying of wreaths and rifle volleys.
 
The Last Post
The Last Post
The Last Post
ABC: Bethany Keats
In military tradition, the Last Post is the bugle call signifying the end of the day's activities. Today it's sounded at military funerals and memorial services to symbolise that the duty of the dead is over and the time has come to rest in peace.

The haunting sounds of the Last Post are played towards the end of a dawn service.  Find out more about the history of the Last Post including audio you can listen to here.
Minute of silence
Minute of silence
Minute of silence
Flickr: CC PreciousBytes
One minute of silence is observed after the Last Post. It's a minute to remember and to show respect and gratitude for all those who've served.

In an unique initiative for Anzac Day 2014, the Returned and Services League (RSL) is selling a pre-recorded minute of silence. The RSL is an organisation dedicated to supporting those who have served in the Australian Defence Force. Recorded by more than 80 servicemen and women, the 60 seconds of silence can be purchased and listened to over the phone, with profits going to the RSL's ANZAC Appeal.
 
ANZAC badges
ANZAC appeal pin
ANZAC appeal pin
ABC: Carmel O'Keeffe
Another big fundraiser for the RSL's ANZAC Appeal is the sale of badges.

For a few weeks in April badges are available from RSL branches and various stores. Volunteers can be found selling them at shopping centres, sporting events and in other busy places where people pass by.

Ranging in price from $2 to $50 the badges are based on the 'Rising Sun' emblem well known to most Australians. 
 
Rosemary
Rosemary
Rosemary
Flickr: CC Luke Redmond
Rosemary is traditionally worn on lapels on Anzac Day as a sign of remembrance. This aromatic herb is believed to have properties to improve the memory and is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.

Sprigs of rosemary are handed out at Anzac Day services.
 
Red poppies
Red poppies
Red poppies
ABC: Bethany Keats
Red poppies are said to be the first plant to regrow in the destroyed battlefields of France and Belgium during the First World War. They've now become a symbol of remembrance. Single poppies aren't worn on lapels on Anzac Day though, because traditionally they belong to Remembrance Day.

Red poppies do appear at Anzac Day in wreaths laid at memorials.  Families also place single poppies besides the names of relatives on rolls of honour.
 
Gunfire breakfast
Gunfire breakfast
Gunfire breakfast
Australian Defence Force School of Catering providing gunfire breakfast, Anzac Day 2010 Flickr: CC Royal Australian Navy
Organisations and community groups often hold public breakfasts after the dawn service, with sausages, bacon and eggs on the menu. Traditional 'Gunfire' can also be served - a cup of coffee, tea or milk with rum.

'Gun fire' was originally a British military term referring to the early cup of tea served out to troops in the morning.
 
Anzac Day march
Anzac Day march
Anzac Day march
Flickr: CC Barney Wrightson
At first the Anzac Day march was intended for veterans who'd served in World War I, but over time it's grown to include veterans who've served in all conflicts involving Australia.

Marches are held in cities and town across the country and attended by many. In recent years relatives of service personnel have also joined in, taking the place of family members who have either passed away, or are too frail to take part themselves.

Participants proudly wear their war medals during an Anzac Day march. Only people issued medals may wear them on their left breast. Relatives wear medals on the right breast.

After the more official parts of Anzac Day are over, many veterans gather at reunions to catch up with old mates they served with.
 
Two-up
Two-up
Two-up
Australians soldiers playing two-up in Afghanistan, 2011 ABC Licensed: CPL Ricky Fuller, Department of Defence
A favourite tradition on Anzac Day is playing two-up.

It's the only day of the year this Australian gambling game can be played legally outside of a licensed gambling venue. It dates back to the 1850's and was played extensively during World War I by Australian soldiers.

A 'Spinner', chosen from the crowd, throws two coins or pennies into the air and players gamble on how they'll fall. Two heads up means the Spinner wins, two tails means the Spinner loses, one of each and the Spinner throws again.

Players must be over 18 years of age and any profits must be donated to charity.
 
Anzac biscuits
Anzac biscuits
Anzac biscuits
Flickr: CC Amanda Slater
The original biscuit, known as an Anzac wafer or tile, was a hard biscuit supplied by the army in World War I to be eaten as a substitute for bread. It needed to have a long shelf-life, so didn't contain eggs. Some soldiers preferred to grind them up to eat as porridge because they were so hard.

The mothers, wives and girlfriends of Australian troops were concerned that their boys weren't getting enough nutritional value and so came up with a recipe for Anzac biscuits, using rolled oats as a base. Other ingredients were sugar, flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda.

Anzac biscuits are still made today and around Anzac Day are used by some veterans' organisations to raise funds.
 
Pilgrimages
Pilgrimages
Pilgrimages
Young Australians at the Gallipoli Dawn Service, 2013      Flickr: Department of Veterans' Affairs (Australia)
In recent years it's become popular to visit significant places in Australia's wartime history.

Large numbers of Australians travel to places across the world to honour those who suffered or made the ultimate sacrifice during war. They're not always the sites of spectacular Australian victories, but visiting faraway battlefields, cemeteries and memorials are valued experiences, especially on Anzac Day.

The most popular pilgrimages are to Anzac Cove in Turkey, Villers-Bretonneux in France, the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea and the Thai-Burma Railway.
 
Anzac Day football
Anzac Day clash
Anzac Day clash
Flickr: CC Koppenbadger
Since 1995 traditional AFL (Australian Football League) rivals Collingwood and Essendon play the annual Anzac Day match.  The game is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and is considered the biggest match of the season outside of the finals, often selling out in advance.

At the end of the match one player is awarded the prestigious Anzac medal for displaying the qualities of the Anzac spirit - skill, courage, self-sacrifice, teamwork and fair play.

In 2014 AFL Asia is hosting five Aussie Rules matches across the region on Anzac Day. The aim is to honour Australian troops who served in major conflicts in the region and to bring people together. Players are Aussie ex-pats, Asians and other nationalities.  Games are being held in Thailand, Borneo, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.
Join Australia Network, Radio Australia and ABC online for comprehensive coverage of Anzac Day activities and commemorations across Australia and overseas.  Details of coverage can be found here.