Anzac Day, 25 April, is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War and then, after 1945 the services moved to include those who served in WWII.
I don't think there's a person alive in Australia who doesn't already know the Anzac story, so I won't try to educate you here. What I would like to talk about though is the importance of ceremony, not only for the people who were directly involved, but for their families and loved ones who were left behind.
Holding a ceremony brought people together to mourn and to remember and give thanks to those brave soldiers who lost their lives during WW1.
The first Anzac Day commemorations were held in 1916, on the 25th April. The day was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies, marches and services across Australia. There was also a march in London and a sports day was held in the Australian camp in Egypt. It wasn't until the 1920s that Anzac Day became an established national day of commemoration and every state in Australia observed some form of public holiday.
The rituals and services we observe today - the dawn vigils, marches and two-up games started around the mid 1930s and have been a steadfast way of spending the day for the past 80 years.
So, why is ceremony so important?
It gives us a place to be with other people who are in the same frame of mind. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the many different meanings of war. It gives us a way to speak to lost loved ones, to mourn their passing and to be proud of their courage and their strength.
After the First World War, returned soldiers sought the comradeship they had felt in those quiet, peaceful moments before dawn and so a dawn vigil became the basis for commemoration.
Today, we collectively gather together with people that we don't necessarily know, but who are all there for the same reason. It's usually pretty cold in April, especially at dawn and as you're standing there in the dark, shivering, it gives you a small sense of what those soldiers might have been feeling. It gives me a feeling of loneliness, respect and gratitude and that is what ceremony does - it takes you out of your own world for a moment and places you into another and makes you think.
What will you be doing for Anzac Day?
There are plenty of ways for you to add ceremony to Anzac Day...
* Get together with famiy and friends and talk about it "Lest we forget".
* Tell the younger generations the stories of the heros, both sung and unsung.
* Visit Gallipoli - I have never been to a more moving place
* Join a dawn service near you
* Keep up your own comradeship with your mates with a get together and game of two-up
This next snippet was on a friend's Facebook page today.....
"A lovely military man selling poppies stopped me today and asked if he could re-position mine - while doing so he told me that women should wear their poppy on their right side; the red represents the blood of all those who gave their lives, the black represents the mourning of those who didn't have their loved ones return home, and the green leaf represents the grass and crops growing and future prosperity after the war destroyed so much. The leaf should be positioned at 11 o'clock to represent the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the time that World War One formally ended. He was worried that younger generations wouldn't understand this and his generation wouldn't be around for much longer to teach them."
Lest we forget...
Talk to one of our celebrants who can assist you with preparing a ceremony.