Sunday, February 27, 2011

Australia Day

Australia’s largest national holiday is Australia Day – celebrated on the 26th of January every year.  Australia Day is the Australian equivalent of the 4th of July.  Big festivals dominate the cities, and thousands head to the beach and BBQs.  And of course, just like the 4th of July, fireworks provide entertainment in the evening. 

Australia Day doesn’t actually celebrate Australia’s independence from Britain, partially because Australia isn’t 100% independent (Australia still recognizes the queen) and partially because Australia was federated on January 1, 1901 – and that’s already a public holiday – New Year’s Day.  So, what we now call Australia Day actually commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Harbour on January 26th, 1788.  Note that the first European settlers to Australia came AFTER the United States had already declared and won independence from Britain.  Crazy, eh?

Australia Day is quite controversial.  The Aboriginal people often call it Invasion Day – marking the day the Europeans came in and began to slowly destroy native culture – and many argue that a national holiday should encompass all Australians, both indigenous and white.  There is even dissent amongst those of European descent for other reasons.  Some claim that the holiday doesn’t have real national significance as the date marks the founding of the colony of New South Wales – not any of the other 6 states.  It’d be like the United States taking Massachusetts Day, renaming it, and turning it into a federal holiday.  Still others point to the fact that most of the settlers were convicts, so we’re basically celebrating the day that a bunch of white criminals in chains arrived in what was then an extremely rough place to live.  It’s an interesting premise for a holiday.

But still, Australia Day is a massive holiday and millions of Australians celebrate it every year.  It fell on day 5 of our Western Australian adventure, and we decided to join in on the fun.  We checked out of our cute cottage at the winery and stopped at Prevelly Beach on our way out of Margaret River.

Ooo la la, Karen!  Then we drove up to Fremantle and arrived to find this warning sign at the check-in desk at our hostel:

It was truly a riches to rags story – from the cute cottage one night to the hostel from hell the next.  But no worries, mate – because there’s beer to be drunk.  We quickly checked out the Australia Day Fair in the main park in Fremantle.  The fair was complete with a citizenship ceremony which I found to be a nice touch.  Welcoming new Australians into the country has become a tradition on Australia Day.

Then it was off to see some little creatures… at the Little Creatures Brewery!  I had been dying to go here as I’ve been enjoying their beers in Sydney.

We started with a sampler of their main brews before moving onto food and a few pints each.

The table next to us helped Australianize us a bit.



Voila!  We’re Aussies!  (Well, Cade was already an Aussie, but he became an ultra-Aussie.)

Our table had a lovely view of the harbour, and we inadvertently got a front row seat for the Australia Day Fireworks!

In summation:  Australia Day was pretty successful, despite the fact that we were unable to consume enough beer to provide even slight relief from the imminent pain to be induced by our stay at the Backpackers Inn Freo.  Next time I’m springing for the Hyatt Regency.

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