What does ANZAC Day mean to Australians and New Zealanders? I remember dawn parades as a young boy scout and wondering what it all really meant. I had this feeling way back then, that it was something for the oldies; like my grandfather who fought in the trenches and got mustard- gassed. He also spent some time in Egypt and then, after the gassing in Europe while he was recovering in a hospital in England, he met my grandmother. So you could say that if it wasn’t for the ANZAC forces going overseas, I would not have been born.
Thousands, if not millions of Aussies and Kiwis could tell similar stories. We have a shared background, forged in blood and suffering of war. ANZAC day is the one day of the year, whereby both nations and most of its citizens agree for a change. There is a growing acknowledgment from all ages that this day is something special. Gone are the days, when the parades in many towns and cities faced ever diminishing crowds. Now, younger people are being caught up in the emotion and ‘specialness’ of ANZAC Day.
The relationship between Australia and New Zealand takes the focus it should have, not the silliness of overindulgent sports fans. For a day, the spirit of cooperation replaces the parochialism of stadiums filled with baying crowds, desperate for a win, in whatever manner that brings the desired result.
Take a moment on this solemn day. Think of those young men and women, who willingly, but not without fear, faced a foe, who we now count as friends; who went away, not knowing if they would ever see their loved ones at home again.
The parades we will watch; be it on television or as live spectators will touch us in ways that we didn’t know we possessed. This feeling has evolved with time, as we mature as nation states. It is not to glorify war, although courage and heroes will always be admired, but to simply remember and never forget the giving of their lives, laid down in faraway places, so different to our shores.
ANZAC Day is the closest day in both countries that we have to an ‘all faith spiritual accommodation.’ Even new immigrants are drawn into the true meaning of being citizens in their chosen county. It is a day we all put aside our differences and for a few precious hours appreciate what it means to be an Aussie or a Kiwi.