Australia Day is a national holiday celebrated annually on January 26th. It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Sydney Cove in 1788. The day is also a time to celebrate Indigenous Australian culture and heritage. There are many events and activities organized around Australia Day, making it a fun holiday for everyone!
Top 10 Facts About Australia Day
Have you ever wondered what lies beyond that little flag? What the day is really about, why it is celebrated and who gets to celebrate with all the fun activities? There are many secrets surrounding this holiday, but if you want to know them, here they are!
#10 We don’t really know when it started
Australia Day was officially declared a national holiday back in 1994. Before that the 26th of January was celebrated as Foundation Day, however, there is no proof that this day meant anything special or had any important events happening on this date. In fact, even now the meaning of the celebrations remains unclear. The closest event people can connect with Australia Day would be The First Fleet which landed on our shores in 1788, however, there is no proof that this was the reason for starting a holiday on the 26th of January.
#9 The date chosen has a special meaning
The chosen date has a special meaning for many Aboriginal tribes as well as colonists and founders of Australia. It happens to be the day when the Sun is at its highest point during its journey across the sky. In fact, it’s believed that using this event as an indicator of time has been done by Australian Aborigines for more than 60 000 years making it one of our oldest calendar systems.
#8 There is a flag but people don’t really know what it means
This brings us to another interesting part – The Australian National Flag or commonly known as The Australian or The Commonwealth Blue Ensign. It was chosen back in 1901 and nobody knows why it is the way it is even though there are countless theories surrounding its design. Some say that it was chosen to represent early colonies while others state that the diagonal cross means Australia’s geographical position (being on the crossroad between Britain and her colonies). One of the most interesting theories, however, states that blue background symbolizes federation, white for peace, without any bloodshed while red stands for hardiness, courage and strength.
#7 It has become a tradition to have a swim on this day
In fact, Australia Day is also known as ‘The Best Day’ when many brave people jump off Sydney Harbour Bridge into the chilly waters of Port Jackson no matter temperature or weather conditions. This tradition was started back in the 1930s, with participants making their way to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair where they would strip off their clothes and jump into the water. Today this event is known as ‘The Sydney Skinny’ or ‘Bondi Icebergs Naked Swim’ and people of all ages join the festivities despite the cold.
#6 There are many events happening on Australia Day
Apart from flag-raising ceremonies, citizenship ceremonies for new Australians, concerts, wreath-laying at significant sites around our country, etc., there also are countless volunteer-run community activities that take place throughout January including movie nights, conservation projects, etc. That’s why it is so important to celebrate this day by getting involved in some worthy cause!
#5 It is a day for volunteering
In fact, it is estimated that about 40 000 people take part in around 213 volunteer events all over the country, covering areas from animal welfare to education and so on. In fact, Australia Day has been described as ‘the greatest community-engagement event of the year’. So if you want to join an existing team or create your own project – You have absolutely no reason not to!
#4 Citizenship ceremonies for new Australians – a sweet tradition
This tradition started back in 1947 when 610 foreign-born residents became citizens at a ceremonial court held in the Sydney Town Hall. Nowadays this event takes place every year on Australia Day with around 6000 new Australians taking their citizenship oaths which makes this day ‘Our Day’ to all of us. It is also worth mentioning that 2016 statistics state that almost 183 000 citizenship applications were received between July 2013 and May 2016 with around 95 percent of them gaining their Australian citizenship on this day.
#3 Australia Day is not the same for everyone
Every year there are countless debates about changing the date of Australia Day, however, it doesn’t make any difference as far as indigenous Australians are concerned. While some still take part in celebrations, many prefer to protest what they see as an insult perpetrated by celebrating a day that began with invasion and occupation of lands inhabited by ancestors of people who now refer to themselves as Indigenous Australians. The truth be told, nobody knows how exactly this holiday was started but one thing remains certain – it’s a day of celebrating freedom for all Australians.
#2 Australia Day begins with Invasion Day
While most people still think that Australia Day is the day of our national independence, Sunday 26 January 1788 marks the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and his men to Sydney Cove onboard First Fleet. Of course, every single Australian knows about these events which are extensively described in textbooks but if you want to know more about this historical period, there are countless novels devoted to stories from this time. This includes ‘The Secret River by Kate Grenville or best-selling trilogy ‘His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet where the author raises questions about the morality and legality of British colonization in 18th century Scotland.
#1 It’s a national holiday
What makes this day so special is the fact that it is a public holiday, regardless of weather conditions or the place you live. So it doesn’t matter if Australia Day falls on Sunday – both days are equally important in commemorating our national identity! And while some people have to go to work, others use every opportunity they have to celebrate this event with friends and family. Apart from fireworks, picnics or parties held by individuals or communities all over Australia, there are also countless events happening at local Aussie pubs where people gather together in order to enjoy the company of one another in real Australian tradition!