If you ever find yourself in Australia on April 25, make sure you do everything you can to get as caught up as possible in the festivities of ANZAC Day. It’s like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day all rolled into one, but on steroids. ANZAC stands for Australia – New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC Day commemorates the landing of the ANZACs at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915 during the First World War. The landing was supposed to be a breeze and the Allies were expected to advance to Istanbul and take over the capital of the Ottoman Empire to knock Turkey out of the war as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the landing didn’t go as planned and the Allies met fierce resistance. The ANZACs kinda got their asses kicked and sustained heavy casualties as a result. After eight months, the Allies pulled back. News of the hardships sustained in battle had a profound impact back in Australia and New Zealand, and April 25 was almost immediately recognized as a holiday of remembrance in honor of those who died in Gallipoli.

Since 1916, people in both Australia and New Zealand (as well as a few of the smaller Pacific Islands) have recognized April 25 as a day to remember those who fought and lost their lives in not only Gallipoli, but every war that Australia has been a part of. Pre-dawn ceremonies are held throughout the countries at various locations to commemorate the exact time of the landing. It’s quite the site to behold. Unfortunately, the two times I’ve experienced it, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to properly take it all in. See, my friends and I decided to start commemorating a little early. The first time, we made the ceremony, but I was too hung over to take it all in. The second time, I overslept. However, even in my limited capacity to remember, I definitely recommend that you check out the dawn ceremony. It was pretty neat. Another tradition that I’ve heard about but never experienced is what’s known as the “gunfire breakfast”, which is most popular at whatever local Ex-Servicemen’s (a.k.a. RSL) Club. The breakfast involves coffee spiked with rum to recall the breakfast the ANZACs had before facing the battle. Mid-morning parades featuring veterans follow the breakfast, then the entire country pretty much hits the bar and gets shitfaced. As a Veteran, I can’t say enough about how much I love ANZAC day. I'm really glad I’ve been there for it. I love to see outpouring of support for Veterans. It makes my day. And, in Australia, they do a whole hell of a lot better job of celebrating than we do in the States.

After the military morning, the rest of the day is pretty much spent getting drunk. My kind of holiday if you ask me!! I recommend that you hit the bar early if you wanna get a seat. Otherwise, plan on standing. It’s okay, though. You’ll have plenty of company to stand with!! There is an interesting form of gambling that, as far as I know, is limited to Australia and to the best of my knowledge is only legal on ANZAC Day. It’s called Two-up, and if you get the chance to check it out, don’t miss it. It’s interesting and entertaining. Two-up was an extremely popular pastime with the ANZACs and the soldiers used it quite regularly during the campaign to pass the monotony of each passing day. Since ANZAC Day is a remembrance day of the time when the ANZACs were slaughtered at Gallipoli, one of the traditions is for the pub patrons to play the game the ANZACs used to play: Two-up. The traditional rules state that a person called the “spinner” places a bet and puts two coins onto a paddle called a “kip”. Using the kip, the spinner tosses the two coins into the air. If the coins are both heads, the spinner wins. If they’re both tails, the spinner loses. If one coin is heads and one is tails, which is known as “odds”, the spinner throws again. Side bets are placed on the action by others watching the process. In practice, though, I haven’t really noticed the Two-up games following these rules. In most cases I’ve seen, the spinner does not place a bet, but is rather a neutral coin-tosser. All bets come in form of side bets where one person holds a bill in the air of any denomination and states their call (i.e. “Fifty dollars on heads”). If anyone challenges, they break out a bill of equal denomination and take the bill from the original bettor and hold both in the air until the toss is complete. Winner takes all. In addition, I’ve only seen Two-up played with three coins, where majority rules. In this case, there is never an even number of heads and tails, so odds is never achieved. Two-up is definitely an interesting sight to behold. Even if gambling is not your thing, I urge you to check it out. The atmosphere is at least worth checking out.