Holidays in Australia are somewhat of a complicated matter. It seems that each territory determines which holidays are public holidays (where there is a day off of work and school) and which are merely celebrated at work. And some holidays are celebrated on different days in different territories. There are a few that are celebrated by all of them. I’ve put in brackets which territories that celebrate the holidays mentioned (thanks to a really nice chart found on Wikipedia).
NOTE: ACT = Australian Capital Territory; NSW = New South Wales; NT = Northern Territory; QLD = Queensland; SA = South Australia; TAS = Tasmania; VIC = Victoria; WA = Western Australia
New Year’s Day. January 1. [ALL] Government offices, many businesses and schools are closed on New Year’s Day. Because it’s summertime in Australia, many people will spend the day having picnics and doing other outdoor activities.
Australia Day. January 26. [ALL] Many people use this day as a day of picnics and barbecues. Sometimes cities and town will have large-scale barbecues and outdoor activities. It’s also a common and appropriate time for people to have citizenship ceremonies.
Royal Hobart Regatta. 2nd Monday in February. [Hobart area of Tasmania only] Started in 1838, this 3-day even is the oldest sport in Tasmania. It not only covers boat racing, but other aspects of water sports (sailing, rowing, swimming, etc.). It takes place on the Derwent River.
Labor Day. 1st Monday in March. [WA] Australians take advantage of the 3-day weekend by spending time outdoors, barbecuing, and perhaps taking a short trip somewhere. In certain cities, labor unions will have parades and key speeches will be led by the city’s leaders. [Labor Day is also called Eight Hours Day in Tasmania and May Day in the Northern Territory.]
Adelaide Cup. 2nd Monday in March. [SA] First run in 1864, this horse race is really important to South Australia. Like the Kentucky Derby, this is more than a horse race, it’s a social event. People dress in their best dress to attend the day-long event; there are a series of eight races each about 40 minutes apart. If you’re not lucky enough to attend, it is shown on television.
Canberra Day. 2nd Monday in March. [ACT] This is a holiday that celebrates the city of Canberra since its founding in 1913. Across the city, there are many different activities for all ages and all interests, including films, music, sporting events, and cultural displays. The city will also name a Citizen of the Year, based on their work in the community.
Eight Hours Day. 2nd Monday in March. [TAS] Australians take advantage of the 3-day weekend by spending time outdoors, barbecuing, and perhaps taking a short trip somewhere. In certain cities, labor unions will have parades and key speeches will be led by the city’s leaders.
Labor Day. 2nd Monday in March. [VIC] Australians take advantage of the 3-day weekend by spending time outdoors, barbecuing, and perhaps taking a short trip somewhere. In certain cities, labor unions will have parades and key speeches will be led by the city’s leaders.
Good Friday. Movable holiday. [ALL] For Christians in Australia, people will attend at least one church service on Good Friday. For others, it’s a time to enjoy the long weekend by spending time outdoors, perhaps with a barbecue with family.
Easter Saturday. Movable holiday. [ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, VIC] For some Christians, there may be church services held. For others, this is part of a long holiday weekend and may be spent outdoors.
Easter Sunday. Movable holiday. [NWS] Because Easter follows a period of fasting (during Lent) for many people, Easter is a time of celebration that includes a lot of food. Australians also do the decorated Easter egg tradition as well. Some cities will even have workshops to teach decorating ideas, such as in the Ukrainian style of egg decorating. There is a movement aimed at offering a chocolate bilby instead of chocolate bunnies since rabbits are often considered pests in Australia
Easter Monday. Movable holiday. [ALL] Easter Monday is spent with family. There are also a lot of music fests and sporting events that take place on Easter Monday, since businesses and schools are closed.
Easter Tuesday. Movable holiday. [TAS] Only in Tasmania to they also get the Tuesday after Easter off as well. I’m going to venture to say that it’s spent pretty much in the same way that the long weekend has been spent.
ANZAC Day. April 25. [ALL] Considered one of Australia’s most important national holidays. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps and commemorates the first military action by Australia-New Zealand forces during World War I. There is always a memorial service that is held at 10:15am and is followed by people placing red poppies besides the names of relatives who are listed on the Memorial’s Roll of Honor. I imagine red poppies are used because of the famous poem “In Flanders Field” by Col. John McCrae, where he mentions red poppies growing on the graves of fallen soldiers.
Labor Day. 1st Monday in May. [QLD] Australians take advantage of the 3-day weekend by spending time outdoors, barbecuing, and perhaps taking a short trip somewhere. In certain cities, labor unions will have parades and key speeches will be led by the city’s leaders.
May Day. 1st Monday in May. [NT] Australians take advantage of the 3-day weekend by spending time outdoors, barbecuing, and perhaps taking a short trip somewhere. In certain cities, labor unions will have parades and key speeches will be led by the city’s leaders.
Western Australia Day. 1st Monday in June. [WA] This is used to commemorate the Swan River Colony back in 1829. It was later changed to Western Australia.
Queen’s Birthday. 2nd Monday in June. [ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC] Most businesses and schools are closed for this day. There are many sporting events during the day and a large fireworks display at night. This is the only time of year it is legal for people to buy and set off fireworks displays on their own. It’s illegal at all other times, and only a licensed pyrotechnician can set them off.
Picnic Day. 1st Monday in August. [NT] Initially created for the railway workers in Darwin so that they could enjoy a day on the Adelaide River for a picnic. It probably doesn’t take a genius to figure out what people will usually do on Picnic Day.
Holiday in lieu of Queen’s birthday. Sept/Oct. [WA] This is the day Western Australia uses to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, since the rest of the country celebrates it around the time that they are celebrating Western Australia Day.
Family and Community Day. 1st Monday of 3rd term school holiday (Sept/Oct). [ACT] This was created as a way for busy workers to take a break and spend time with their families and friends. It’s also claimed that Australians work “the longest hours in the western world.” I don’t know where that figure was attributed from, but I may have to look into that. But still, it’s a far cry from the United States where The Job doesn’t want to believe that people might see that their families slightly more important than work.
Labor Day. 1st Monday in October. [ACT, NSW, SA] Australians take advantage of the 3-day weekend by spending time outdoors, barbecuing, and perhaps taking a short trip somewhere. In certain cities, labor unions will have parades and key speeches will be led by the city’s leaders.
Recreation Day. 1st Monday in November. [non-Hobart areas of Tasmania only] Although it’s called Recreation Day, a lot of people apparently take this day to catch up on things they don’t necessarily want to do, like study and household chores. Although there are people who spend the day with family or doing outdoor activities. I suppose depending on the family or outdoor activity, household chores may be the better option.
Melbourne Cup. 1st Tuesday of November. [VIC-Melbourne area] Another one of Australia’s most popular horse races and social events. Although there are several local races held throughout the area on this day, the main race is held at Flemington Racecourse. Wine and gourmet fingerfoods are served those distinguished guests that are lucky enough to attend.
Christmas. December 25. [ALL] Many traditions were brought over from England, and this also holds true for Christmas ones as well. Christmas cards, caroling, and Christmas trees all stem from these customs. Because Australia is hot during December, people will also do a lot of outdoor activities and barbecues around this time as well. Christians will often attend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services. Santa Claus is also popular and you can see him dressed in full costume at area malls and shopping centers. Gift giving is a popular tradition as well, although it depends on the family whether they open them Christmas Eve night or Christmas morning. Nativity scenes are common, but you may also find native Australian animals in with the traditional animals as well.
Boxing Day. December 26. [ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, TAS, VIC, WA] This has become a day of sporting events. There is a really important cricket match that takes place on Boxing Day. In total, these matches may take up to five days. Another popular event is the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. It used to take much longer, but now the fastest yacht can make it in about two days. And if sports aren’t your thing? Don't worry, Boxing Day marks the beginning of end of the year sales, so shop away.
Proclamation Day. December 26. [SA] South Australia doesn’t officially celebrate Boxing Day, but rather Proclamation Day. It’s the day used to commemorate the founding of South Australia as a British province.
New Year’s Eve. December 31. [SA] Many people will have parties with lots of food, or will barbecue at their homes. Many of these parties will have different themes to them. There are usually fireworks at midnight. People of drinking age will often toast to the new year with champagne or wine.
Up next: Art and Literature
Up next: Art and Literature
Wikipedia: “Public holidays in Australia” “Royal Hobart Regatta” “Family Day” “Proclamation Day”
Labor Day/Eight Hours Day/May Day: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/labour-day
Easter Monday: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/easter-monday
The Queen’s Birthday: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/queens-birthday
Recreation Day: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/recreation-day
Melbourne Cup Day: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/australia/melbourne-cup-day