What do you know about Australia Day?

We caught up with real-life Aussie, Reuben Acciano, who works for STA Travel Down under, to get the run-down of his nation’s proudest public holiday, upcoming Australia Day. This is what he had to say…

If you’re lucky enough to be Down Under towards the end of January, you’re in for a treat: Australia’s national holiday — imaginatively titled Australia Day — falls on January 26th, during the most glorious month of our year.

Although the young nation (at just 223 years old) doesn’t commemorate the day with any odd/arcane traditions upheld over thousands of years, we certainly enter into celebrations with the exuberance and abandon the Brits have come to love (and sometimes loathe) about their colonial mates down south.

You might have to zip your lip about the convict gags on Australia Day, though. For one, they were British convicts. For another, us Aussies are a justifiably proud lot; passionate about our sport, but also sharing a genuine affection for our innovative, vibrant country, nurtured to prominence from a less-than-glorious kick-off.

Happy Australia Day

The Australia Day uniform is optional | Photo by Drew__

A Short History of Australia

Brit, Sir Arthur Phillip nearly lost the race to claim the Great Southern Land — then known as New Holland after early Dutch landings left the Netherlanders decidedly unimpressed — to the French, who literally got tangled up with Phillip’s fleet trying to navigate between Botany Bay and the eventual landing point of Sydney Cove in 1788.

Without launching into a lengthy history lesson, early colonial life was pretty cruel for all, but most notably the native Aboriginal population.

Over the ensuing century Abrogines were often massacred in numbers, or forced to endure horrendous indignities, during culturally inept attempts to define their role in the new society, in accordance with British class dynamics and customs, which made little to no sense in the new land. Some politicised Aussies even refer to Australia Day as ‘Invasion Day’.

But if the manner in which Australia approached its indigenous population was troubled, its acceptance of waves of migrants in the post-war period was anything but.

Chinese miners unearthed much of the wealth that at one point made ‘Magnificent Melbourne’ the second largest city in the British Empire, and earned it the title of national capital through until 1927.

Though intolerance always existed, the fledgling nation was founded on innovation; a strong ethic of self-reliance and improvisation; and deep mistrust of class privilege.

This allowed many poor, newly-arrived Europeans (and later Southeast Asians) to impress, and thrive, with unique solutions for adapting to harsh and challenging situations, both socially and commercially. This allowed a more multicultural Australia to develop, and become the foundation of the one we embrace today.

An example of this is our food, which has taken on an incredible range, with local produce being exploited to its fullest. Australia now attracts cuisines from around the Pacific Rim, and right across Europe. Influenced by generations of migrant cooks, ‘New Australian’ is now a recognised cooking style, and Australian chefs now take a place among the most respected in the world.

Today’s Australia Day Celebrations

So how do us Aussies celebrate our national day in the modern era? In exactly the same rambunctious manner you’ve come to expect!

australia day 2010

Everything you need to celebrate Australia Day! | Photo by Jon Ovington

The public holiday falls in the middle of our beautiful summer, and for many of my compatriots, the beach figures prominently — 85{8105bc8a7da0e4ee2985a05e217cd0e1bef95b551bf8bafd62a449e444182173} of the population live within 30km of the coast. A general shift outdoors (unless there’s a Test on, of course!) takes place, accompanied by the requisite joyful imbibing that accompanies every Australian celebration.

Australia Day 2010

For the record, there are no shrimps on this barbie. Only sausages. | Photo by Jon Ovington

If you’re visiting any of the larger capitals, the well-worn cliché is mostly accurate: a day of outdoor cricket or swimming and a barbecue at a mate’s house, or in one of the many great parks, followed by a fireworks display to top it all off.

If you get roped into a cricket match, feel free to sledge away – you know us Aussies give as good as we get!

If you’re in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia or Western Australia you’re really spoiled for superb, golden beach action in January. In Victoria, the beaches are less thrilling, but the bar and pub scene is fantastic, so you may opt for air-con over sandy shores, unless you’re up for a bit of a drive.

Even if it’s a scorcher, the water can still be pretty chilly in the far south, so you may end up enjoying your towel more than the waves, but trust me when I say: SPF 30+ will be essential.

The soundtrack all over (for the young and young at heart, anyway) is commonly the ‘Hottest 100’, piped from our national radio station Triple J; a listener-voted rundown of the favourite tracks of the previous year, set to coincide with Australia Day.

Don’t forget, Aussies like to start the party early: bigger parties and gigs are often scheduled for straight-after-work-hours on January 25 — Australia Day ‘Eve’, as we like to call it — in anticipation of the public holiday to follow, which applies across the country.

So, when will we see you Down Under? Or perhaps you’ve already experienced Australia Day for yourself?