You may have noticed this day on your calendar in the April 25th box. I always have, because it just so happens to be my birthday as well. The only thing that I knew about ANZAC day was that it was a public holiday in Australia, and I only knew that much because that was also denoted on some calendars I’ve had. Last semester I had to give a speech about events that occurred on my birthday so I finally learned what it was all about, and this semester I was able to actually experience the holiday while participating in the IFSA Butler study abroad in Australia program (and turning 21!).
ANZAC is an acronym for Australia New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC day is similar in context to Memorial Day with the party atmosphere of 4th of July. It commemorates the first military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI. In 1915 the ANZAC soldiers landed at Gallipoli and fought the Turks. It was a military failure and 8,000 Australians died. Every year since then it has been a day of remembrance for the soldiers who have died and for the freedom they won for their country.
It was a little strange turning 21 on a holiday with such solemn roots (and in a country whose drinking age is 18) but it was a really festive day. It was really nice out, so I walked from St. Johns down to the Rocks in search of a game of two up. Two up is a betting game that is only legal on ANZAC day, and only at certain bars which have obtained the proper permits to run the game. It is played on ANZAC day because it was a game people played in the war. You’re literally betting on whether or not coins will be tossed and land on heads or tails. A circle is drawn on the floor and everyone stands outside the circle making bets with each other. Someone then goes into the middle of the circle with the kip (a small wooden paddle) that has 3 coins and tosses them up in the air. Then the coins land and you settle up your bets according to how many heads and tails there are.
We missed the parade, but we saw heaps of military personnel in their uniforms. It reminded me of high school when I was in the NJROTC and marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Belmar, NJ. The first bar we went to was the Mercantile Hotel. It was nice and there was live music, but it was an older crowd and drinks were expensive. Also, there was no two up. So we left and walked down to the Argyle. That place was going off. They had bag pipers playing outside, and most importantly to us, two up!! I personally didn’t bet on the game, but I stood in the circle with the kip and flipped the coins. We stopped at one or two other places before heading back to college. One thing we noticed was a lot of people had sprigs of rosemary pinned to their clothes. We found out later that the rosemary signifies memory, which is why so many people were sporting it that day.
For me, that ended the traditional ANZAC festivities, and begun my birthday festivities. I went out to an amazing thai food place on King St. called Thai-riffic. My favorite thai place so far. Then I watched a movie because it was too early to go out for the night, and I needed some time to relax after the big afternoon we had. Our destination was Worldbar in Kings Cross. It was another first for me, and another great experience. There was a cover charge, but it was well worth it. The music and dancing was great, there was some live music, and you could order cocktails which came in a tea pot! I found myself wishing I had checked out Worldbar earlier in the semester.
That was it for ANZAC day. I continued my birthday celebrations the next day with my official birthday dinner at Mickey’s on King St. A little pricey for college students such as ourselves, but amazing food, plus it was my birthday so I figured I deserved a nice dinner out for a change. Afterwards we went to Star City Casino. I was really excited because I had never been to a casino before and it was something I particularly wanted to do for my 21st. We weren’t there for very long, but I played at the $10 blackjack table, and got blackjack on my first hand!! I knew it would happen; it was my 21st birthday, I had to get 21. My friends were skeptical, but I ended up getting blackjack twice more and I was up $60 when I decided to stop playing. I had some champagne to celebrate and played a few slots, but they were boring and it’s all electronic now so you don’t even get the fun of pulling down the lever and watching it spin. We finished off the night at Vegas in the Cross, which wasn’t as great as I was expecting it to be (a lot of people talked it up), but it was a nice wind down to a terrific 21st birthday extravaganza.