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(originally published to Bubblews writing site, now gone)

Today, April 25, is Anzac Day and a holiday in Australia and New Zealand as well as a few Pacific Island nations. The day commemorates all those from these countries who fought in the various wars, including the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan. It is regarded as one of the most important holidays in this part of the world. 

Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It originally formed in Egypt in 1915 from the First Australian Imperial Force and the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force. They fought the Ottomans on the Gallipoli peninsula, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now part of Turkey. The Anzacs first landed on the beaches of the peninsula on 25 April 1915. The campaign lasted till 9 January 1916 and was part of World War I. More than 100,000 men lost their lives. 

On 25 April 1916, a year after the start of the campaign, the day was called Anzac Day and there were various services and ceremonies. New Zealand declared it a half-day holiday and a full public holiday from 1920. Anzac Day was observed in Australia too but it was not a public holiday in all states until 1927. From the 1930s, the day featured dawn services, marches, reunions, two-up games, and just remembering those who fought in wars.  

Commemorations were smaller during World War II as the Australian government prevented large gatherings due to fear of Japanese air attacks, but picked up again after the end of the war. Soon after, crowds again became smaller because authorities banned sport and other commercial entertainment on this day. Further trouble ensued in the 1960s when many people used the day to protest against the Vietnam War. In the 1970s and 1980s, groups such as feminists and gays used the day to promote their causes. 

Interest in Anzac Day revived around the late 1980s and has become more and more popular since then, including among young people who remember their grandparents and great grandparents who fought in various wars. Many Australians and New Zealanders now make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli for a large service to commemorate what happened there in World War I.  

Anzac Day is now a huge day for Australia and New Zealand with more services and other events held on this day than any other day in the year. The first 18 minutes of our one hour evening news here in Brisbane today was on Anzac Day activities, a far cry from 1975 when our main national daily newspaper, The Australian, carried just the one Anzac story the day after Anzac Day.

 

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