What is Anzac Day and Why Is It Important?
Anzac Day is a celebration like no other. Jointly commemorated by Australia and New Zealand on the 25th of April every year, the event seeks to honour and remember Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations conducted by the two countries. It is also being held to acknowledge the contribution and suffering of those who have served.
Originally, Anzac Day was to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC, who have fought and died bravely during World War I. In 1915, the ANZAC force set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey to open the way to the Black Sea for the other members of the Allied forces and to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany.
They landed on Gallipoli and was met with fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army. Thousands of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand were said to have lost their lives during the Gallipoli campaign. Although they have failed to achieve their goal, what the ANZAC force did on the battlefield and at the face of adversity left a lasting mark in the hearts and minds of their countrymen. The “Anzac legend” became an important part of the national identity in both countries.
So on the year after the historic landing at Gallipoli, both New Zealand and Australia officially declared April 25 as Anzac Day. A wide variety of ceremonies were held in both countries. A commemorative march through the street of London in Britain that involved Australian and New Zealand troops was also held.
As the years went on, Australians and New Zealanders celebrate Anzac Day not only to honour the memory of their brave forefathers who fought in WWI. Anzac Day has become a day to pay tribute and celebrate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders who were killed in all the military operations in which both countries have been involved. The event is also the time for the people of the two nations to reflect on the cost of war.
Anzac Day is indeed a very important occasion for both countries not only because it commemorates what happened 100 years ago, but also of the things it contributed to the New Zealand and Australian psyche. Aside from helping forge and solidify national identify in both countries, it also helped shape the way Australians and New Zealanders understand their past and view their present.