It’s the 23rd of April, and I’ve just popped a couple of trays of Anzac Biscuits into the oven. On the 25th it’s ANZAC Day. But for this one year, it’ll be an Anzac Day like no other – except once, which was in 1918 during the Spanish Flu Pandemic.
Anzac Day commemorates the first major military action fought by Australians and New Zealanders during the first world war. In 1914 when war broke out, Australia had been a federated nation for only thirteen years.
Now, it’s a day when we commemorate all of our war dead, and all of those who have served in our defence forces.
Anzac Day always begins with the Dawn Service. Mid morning, there’s a march, which includes veterans, current serving members, family members and children of those who have served, community organisations, bands, and schools. Thousands turn out to cheer, wave flags, and attend the service after the march.
Wreaths are laid, the Last Post is played, and The Ode is recited. We sing our national anthem, and and we remember and contemplate the sadness of war, but with gratitude for sacrifices made.
This is one of the only days in the year when we make a fuss about ‘being Australian.’ That might sound a bit odd, but we’re not a nation who vigorously waves our flag on a regular basis, or does the hand over heart thing with any kind of seriousness. That’s just a bit embarrassing, really.
We do sing our anthem, but for most of us, there are other songs that speak more deeply to our hearts, and say more about what we really think about ourselves. Although there is a version that most of us prefer – even if it’s mostly in jest.
So on Anzac Day, when people do actually wave flags, it really means something. We sort of let our national hair down, if you like.
Of course, this year we can’t. Social distancing, and COVID-19 means that there will be no marches, no Dawn Service in every town, no community gatherings, and no cheering and waving flags.
But instead, we have a new initiative: #StandAtDawn
We are encouraged instead to wake early, and be on our driveways or balconies with a candle, ready to listen to the last post, in unity as a nation during this COVID-19 pandemic.
We Australians so far, along with our friends across the ditch, have been incredibly fortunate at this point of the pandemic. Part of it’s living on an island, albeit a really big one, but even so, we’re still social distancing, and we cannot, and will choose not to, gather in groups together, because we want to continue to keep our vulnerable safe. #stopthespread
But we will gather on our driveways with our candles. We will listen to the Last Post. Some may recite The Ode, and perhaps the odd one will sing or play the National Anthem, or one of the other songs that speaks to our hearts.
And in the darkness of almost dawn, we will remember them.