On the morning of April 25th each year Australians around the world stop to pay respect to those who have served our country. Anzac Day is by far the most culturally significant day on the Australian calendar.  This singular day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War and has since grown and evolved to pay respect to all Australian service people and their animal companions and comrades past and present.

But why is this such an important day for Australians? What exactly is it about Anzac Day makes Australians across the nation get up at some ungodly hour and trek out in the Autumn chill to pay their respects? To help all our international friends and indeed even a few Australian’s who need a lesson in respect here’s your brief guide to celebrating Anzac Day in Australia

A Traveller’s Guide To Celebrating Anzac Day in Australia


ANZAC? Isn’t that the name of a delicious biscuit?

Well yes it is. But firstly the term ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps.

Tell me more about this delicious biscuit.

Anzac biscuits are indeed delicious. Perfect as a mid day snack or late evening with a cup tea. Even now I can still remember the joy of watching my Nana Jean make these biscuits each and every year. And the joy of stealing these hot out of the oven. It was worth the burnt fingers and scorn from Nana Jean. They are a basic biscuit made with oats, flour, butter, honey/treacle and coconut. During WW1 the families, friends and communities back home sent care packages to the boys on the front line. Due to a lack of refrigeration and long transit times they needed an item that would last the voyage, be nutritious and keep the boys thinking of the sweet treats waiting for them at home. The soldiers biscuit as it was originally called met the criteria.

Somewhere along the road the name transformed from Soldiers Biscuit to Anzac Biscuit. Fun Fact- Anzac biscuits are one of the few items that can legally use the name Anzac in a commercial way.

This year for something a little different we’ll be baking Anzac Scones thanks to Sara from Belly Rumbles!

Credit : Australian War Memorial ID H15233

What happened on 25 April 1915?

On the morning of 25 April 1915, the Anzacs set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and an ally of Germany.  The Anzacs landed on Gallipoli and met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. Their plan to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight long months.

At the end of 1915 Allied forces were evacuated. Both sides experienced tremendous loses, with the Anzac’s loosing an estimated 8,000 soldiers.

Gallipoli beach 1915

Dawn Service and Ceremony.

All small country towns and the larger cities will host a dawn service and respectful ceremony. If you are planning on attending a Dawn Service you’ll be wanting to get up at sparrows fart (as they oldies say). The service is usually standing room only and you’ll need to be there well and truly before dawn to get prime position. Or any position. Some areas like the Shrine of Remembrance or The Cross at Mt Macedon have exceptional attendance and access is restricted for the safety of all. So get there extra early.

A typical Anzac Day ceremony may include the following features: an introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, a recitation, the Last Post, a period of silence, either the Rouse or the Reveille, and the national anthem.

Why At Dawn?

Dawn is the time that the Anzac’s landed on Gallipoli. There is also anecdotal eveidence that returned service men and women sought out their comrades in the early hours of the morning to reflect on what had happened and embrace the calm before the storm which happened each and every day.

March Onwards.

After the Dawn Ceremony, a few rounds of two up and maybe a sneaky beer there are parades throughout the cities and towns. Returned service men and women proudly march throughout the streets. Some who can no longer walk still partake in cars or mobility scooters. You might also see the younger people handing out minties to those who march. This was certainly what happened when I was young and fresh. Handfuls of minties were given out to the service folk who marched along the streets of Melbourne.


A Traveller’s Guide To Celebrating Anzac Day in Australia

Two Up

Two Up? Huh? So this is another one of the more light hearted aspects of Anzac Day. On this one day of the year it’s legal to play Two-Up, a game of chance. Luck or skills? Really it’s gambling in the purest form. There’s a little bit on contention over this game and it’s origins. Historians believe it started in the 18th century in the poorer parts of England and Ireland. As the Allied forces were made up of the English, Irish, Australians an New Zealanders (amongst others) it’s no wonder that this game was whole heartedly embraced by the Australian service people and was brought home. There is evidence of soldiers meeting up regularly to play a few rounds of Two-Up.

There’s no evidence that this game was associated with the happenings at Gallipoli and more so that it was a way for soldiers to pass the tedious hours of nothingness.

How to Play Two Up

A simplified version-

  1.  A Ringie places two coins, tail side up, on a paddle (“kip”), while punters congregate around the game in a circular pattern and roar phrases like “tennahead!” (ie. $10 on both coins landing on heads).
  2. The call “come in spinner” is made from box in which the Spinner then tosses the coins. It is the Ringie’s job to ensure that the coins are tossed at least 10 feet into the air. Any less and well what’s the point?All coins need to fall within the designated circle. If one or more fall outside of the circle then the Ringie declares the game void. The “spinner” then makes another turn.
  3. During this time, bets on heads or tails are taken ringside in the direction of the Head-Better.If both coins show heads, you lose. If both coins show tails, you win. The spinner continues to toss if one of each spins until there is a result.

Ideally a penny is the coin of choice. Their size and weight make these coins ideal for flipping around.

So why did Australian soldiers embrace this game?

Firstly – Australian’s love a good challenge and mindless game. Secondly Australian soldiers during WW1 were the highest paid soldiers of any nationality. If they hadn’t blown their wages on brothels and booze then it was on a good game of two up.

There was also regulations in place that Australian soldiers could not be executed. Other Allied armies regularly executed soldiers in an attempt to keep order and regime amongst the ranks of soldiers. That’s a story for a whole other day.

What happens on April 25 now?

Well the whole country stops to commemorate the Anzacs. Whilst this is a solemn event there is the usual Australian sense of humour floating around, mainly after the dawn services have been held.

You’ll hear a lot about Anzac spirit. This is in reference to the hardships that those endured during the time at Gallipoli. It’s a way of respecting the endurance that all soldiers that have represented the Anzacs over the past 100 years have had.

This is a public (bank) holiday across the nation. There are some trading restrictions as well that you need to be aware of. These do vary state by state so it’s best to do a quick google before heading out of the house.
These are in place to allow all Australians (and our very welcome guests in whatever form you take) the option

  • Shopping centres open after 1pm.
  • Cafes and other small businesses maybe open for early morning service. As this is a public holiday nation wide don’t be shocked to see a 10-15% surcharge on the bill to cover additional cost in wages.
  • Alcohol restricted for sale from 12pm in most places. Even venues who usually have early morning trading. If you are after a drink to commemorate then try an RSL. Some may have a temporary license issued and be able to serve from 5am.
  • There’s a really stupid football match on where all reasonable Australians are embarrassed as we try to associate football players with those who have sacrificed their lives for this country.

Now I really hate to have to say this BUT #dontbeadick Australians love any reason to celebrate and Anzac Day after the Dawn Service is no different. Mind your manners, show some respect and have a good day.

We haven’t touched on the masses of Australian’s who continue to invade Gallipoli each and every year to pay their respects. Here’s some more information if you would like to learn more on Gallipoli and the Anzacs or Commemoration Australia.

The above black and white images are taken of Australian soldiers during WW1 and are credited to the Australian War Memorial. We are very thankful for the information and images made available.

If you find yourself in Australia or the company of Australians on April 25 we hope that you take a moment to pay respect to all people and animals that have lost their lives in time of war. As well as having an Anzac biscuit or two in celebration of a game of two up.

Have you celebrated Anzac Day before? Let us know in the comments below.



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  1. Thanks for sharing this important piece of history. I never associated Australia and New Zealand with any war. That cookie sounds delicious too. 😉

    • Interestingly it is illegal to call them cookies the protected name is ANZAC biscuit

  2. I’m in Mexico right now and feeling very home sick as ANZAC day is very important to my fiance and I as he has served time with our military. Loved the way you put this together

  3. This was a really interesting read. I’d never heard of Anzac Day but it’s a very important day to observe!

    – Sarah

  4. This post is fascinating for me, as I love to know historical anecdotes and connect them with my travels. And I love Anzac cookies…I can feel that crunchy taste in my mouth now.

  5. Thanks for this post 🙂 I’m quite lucky in the sense of honoring ANZAC day that I live in Canberra – so tomorrow morning it will be up at dawn for the service at the Aus War Memorial X

  6. Oh this sounds amazing. what a lovely way to commemorate those who serve the country so selflessly.

  7. I love history lessons like these! I always wandered why it was called anzac but havent had the chance to google it. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Interesting! I honestly had never heard of this day but then again, I’m not an aussi. Anyway, I think it’s great you write about this. It’s important to not forget history and to think back to the ones who stood up for their countries during the war.

  9. I always wanted to visit Galipoli for this but have never had the chance to do so, wonderful information about the history and tragic happenings at this point in time and why it is so important to celebrate.

  10. We went to a lot of Anzac memorial sites in Australia and New Zealand and found them so moving – it’s great to see someone writing all about Anzac day and what it means. Really enjoyed reading this post and learnt a lot from it.

  11. How did I live in Australia for 10 months and never hear about “two up”? Lol
    Very interesting and educational post!

    • Most likely because it’s illegal to play unless it’s Anzac Day!

      • That’s so crazy! Thanks for the blog, I learned something new. 😀👍

  12. Thanks for a great historical lesson! This is interesting

  13. I had never heard of Anzac day, but you gave a great “tutorial” to understanding and appreciating the holiday and it’s significance to Australians. It sounds similar to the United States’ Veterans Day or Memorial Day celebrations.

  14. Thanks for sharing the history behind Andaz Day. I had never heard of it but glad that I learned something new about Australia and how this holiday is being celebrated by the Australians. I will need to try that cookies one day!

  15. My daughter made me laugh this week as she said that the school makes them sit in the hall ‘in remembrance’ … but that she can’t remember the day at all!! Had to give her a history lesson there!! Great informative post and such an important day for us Aussies!

    • Oh that’s so cute and funny!!

  16. As a fellow Australian, I’m glad you’re talking about something so important to us Aussies. Reading the comments is making me smile. I love being Australian, and I love Anzac biscuits just as much! Yum. Great post 🙂

  17. This is a great and informative post! As an Australian it is such an important day to commemorate.

  18. We visited Gallipoli a few years ago and the scale and the realization of what it must have been like was quite overwhelming.
    The Gallipoli offensive actually occurred over the course of a year with very poor leadership from the Brits which led to so much bloodshed. The poor buggers didn’t stand a chance ;-(

    • Going to Gallipoli is one of the things on our list to do. I can only imagine what it would have been liked to have arrived and had this happen. So many lives lost.

  19. Wow. I have never even heard of this holiday but I am so glad you shared this with me. I always love learning about cultures that are more differenet from my own than I think. And I have to try those biscuits!! Never heard of them!!! Thanks!!

  20. Thank you for sharing! I love stumbling travel post that give insight to history of a certain culture or country.

    I’d love to try that cookie too!

  21. Great post on ANZAC Day! It makes me miss home. Thanks for sharing x

  22. Its horrible to admit, but growing up in the UK, I had no idea that Australia had any involvement in WW1. When I moved here and learnt about the ANZACs it was like adding a section into history! Thanks for writing this and explaining the importance of ANZAC day, it will really help visitors to the country to understand what the day is about.

  23. I’m from Brisbane but it was a lifelong dream to do dawn service in Canberra at the war memorial.

    It’s something I definitely recommend to all, despite being in the cold for a wee while

  24. I see that Anzac day is similar to what we celebrate in many European countries as “Liberation Day” when the Americans won against the Germans in WWII. Thanks a lot for sharing a piece of history of Australia that I only knew very little about. I didn’t know that the name came from a biscuit.

    • The name doesn’t come from a biscuit. As it’s discussed above the name stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps.

  25. I have learnt a great bit of history today by reading your blog. I knew nothing about the Anzac Day or the Anzac biscuits previously. Thank you for posting this.

  26. This is an interesting read, I was not aware on Anzac day or that Australia and NZ were involved in World War 1. If I’m in Australia on this date I’ll definitely show some interest and see how the day unfolds. I didn’t know Anzac was a biscuit either, something else Anzac to try!

  27. It really is very similar to Veterans Day. I’m glad to see that the day is observed and places close early out of respect. I’ve never heard of Anzac Day but your post described the history of it perfectly.

  28. Maybe? I don’t usually deal in ‘maybes’ but you gotta’ be in it to win it, right? And who’s going to pass up the chance of a cookie?!
    I lived in Oz for 2 years and my sis married an Aussie so no doubt I’ll be back again at some point. I can’t claim to know much about the history but I do know the Aussies are fiercely proud of this day and the celebrations were always worth being around for. Two-up was my last memory of Anzac day – the pubs in Sydney were mad for this game!

  29. I find Anzac Day desperately sad – the loss of life was horrendous. When I was younger, it wasn’t such a big deal – I like how we’ve come full circle and are showing respect to those who died over 100 years ago.

    • Really? I’m 31 and this has always been a very big deal in Melbourne!

      • I think Red Nomad has a point. When we first started going to Dawn service in Brisbanes CBD over 30 years ago the crowd was quite small and few other services were to be found. Now the crowd is huge and many large services are to be found in every suburb and town.
        I don’t remember going to any school services at all in the 70’s and 80’s – I we were a military family !

        • Maybe it’s my generation that has brought this to the point we are at now? I was in primary school in the 90’s and Anzac Day was a big thing! As a family we attended the marches as did many of my school friends.

  30. This was a really beautiful post to read – I’ve shared it far and wide 🙂

  31. This is a really lovely and thoughtful post, Jean. Do I maybe get an ANZAC cookie for commenting?

    • As mentioned above this year we are making Anzac scones! So maybe you can try one of these 😉

      • I can’t say no to scones, not ever!

        • Well if you’re ever in Melbourne we’ll scone it up

  32. Loved to read it. I am currently in Melbourne and had already planned to be there but after reading your Blog I am a little bit more knowledgeable about this great day. Thank you. I am now really looking forward to 25th.


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