For a relatively young nation, Australia has more than its fair share of events and celebrations. Whether it’s a sombre Anzac Day march through the heart of Sydney’s CBD, or a barbecue under the sun at Bondi Beach, one thing’s clear—Australian’s place tremendous value on coming together as a community.
Some of the events and celebrations listed below were inherited from other nations, while others were conceived in Australia. In each case, they all maintain qualities which make them distinctly Australian, providing a unique look into the cultural quirks that make Australia the globally renowned nation it is today.
So, in no particular order, here are Australia’s definitive events and celebrations.
Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade truly captures the spirit of its global counterparts. Thousands of revellers take to the streets, often intoxicated, to cheer on the procession of colourful floats. Referred to as Shrove Tuesday in many parts of the world, Sydney’s Mardi Gras originated in 1978 as a parade for gay and lesbian rights. While still a celebration of LGBT rights, the event attracts people of all sexualities, making for a street party of epic proportions.
Held annually, Sydney’s City2Surf sees unfit amateurs and olympic hopefuls participate together in a running race that has become one of the world’s most popular. On the second Sunday of each August, more than 60,000 people run (or walk) the 14km from Hyde Park in the CBD to the golden sands of Bondi Beach. Many of those who don’t compete participate by offering encouragement and much needed fluids to runners as they pass, making for a great day on and off the track.
Sydney Festival occurs every year in January, attracting hundreds of artistic performances, both local and international. Whether you’re into music, dance, theatre or comedy, the Sydney Festival has you covered. Opening and closing days are free outdoor events and gather more than 100,000 people every year in Hyde Park and the Domain. With arguably the world’s most picturesque harbour as a backdrop, this is an event not to be missed.
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts on December 26th (Boxing Day) and covers a distance of 630 nautical miles (1170km). The world’s best skippers and sailors battle it out in this iconic race that spans parts of the Pacific Ocean and Bass Strait, with the latter being considered one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water. Sailors and landlubbers alike come together for the Sydney to Hobart, in an event which has become a staple of Australian summers.
Chinese New Year
While mainly celebrated by the Chinese population, Australians of all ethnic backgrounds enjoy taking part in the festivities of Chinese New Year, particularly in Sydney. Traditional dances and elaborate firework displays bring in a crowd eager to soak up the culture of one of Australia’s largest ethnic groups, while culinary and artistic specialties also provide tourists with a unique taste of Asia in Australia.
Australia Day marks the arrival of the first fleet of European settlers on the 26th of January, 1788. Australians across the country use the day to celebrate Australian culture, and family and friends often gather around a BBQ to enjoy what’s commonly an idyllic summer day.
New Year’s Eve
In Sydney, New Year’s Eve is celebrated by an amazing fireworks display over Sydney Harbour. While thousands of people across Sydney jostle for the best viewing spots, the rest of the nation also celebrates, with events held in major cities across the country.
Boxing Day falls on the 26th of December, the day after Christmas, and many Australians hit the shops to take advantage of the massive post-Christmas sales. It’s also a sportive day, featuring horse races, a cricket “test match” at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and the beginning of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
ANZAC Day occurs on the 25th of April each year. ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) Day is a day of remembrance, where Australians pay their respects to soldiers who’ve served Australia in wars throughout its history.
It was first held to commemorate soldiers who served at Gallipoli, a WW1 military campaign in which 8,700 Australians died fighting alongside British and French soldiers, against the defending Turkish troops.
As a sign of respect, many Australians gather at 5:30am dawn services, the same time that ANZAC troops made landfall on the shores of Gallipoli all those years ago.
Melbourne Cup Day
Melbourne Cup Day is only a public holiday in Victoria, but that doesn’t stop the rest of Australia from taking part in the fun. Nationwide, workplaces pause to watch the main race, with many hosting office parties and dress up competitions. It occurs on the first Tuesday of November, and has come to be known as ‘The Race that stops a Nation’. Drawing in a crowd of over 100,000 at the historic Flemington Racecourse, and attracting a television audience of over 650 million people worldwide, the atmosphere generated on Melbourne Cup Day is nothing short of electric.
Hopefully you’ve learnt a thing or two about events and celebrations in Australia. Why not come and experience them for yourself?
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