Patriotism comes in many forms. Every country exerts pride and vainglory to different degrees. For sheer vociferousness, the United States of America probably takes the cake (pun intended). Canada is invariably polite about it all but can get boisterous in spurts – most notably when the national hockey squad takes the ice at the Winter Olympics.Australia’s patriotism probably resides somewhere in the middle. Down Under dignity is very high but the country, on the whole, stops short of obnoxious bravura, à la “American exceptionalism” and the like. At the same time, Australia seldom feels the need to apologise for itself and seems to suffer less national insecurity than, say, Canada.
This all comes to the fore every January 26 for Australia Day. The national holiday of record from Perth to Canberra is as fine and lively a show of patriotism as you will find anywhere in the world. One of the epicentres of the party is in Parramatta, Sydney.
First, however, some key Australia Day facts:
The Date: January 26 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Sydney Cove, New South Wales in 1788. Over time, however, the country has made strides to brand Australia Day as a commemoration of unity and inclusiveness. Past the first European settlement of one specific part of Australia, in other words, and, indeed, away from the image of the date as an “Invasion Day”. There have been movements in the past to change the date but various polls over the years demonstrate considerable opposition to the idea by the vast majority of respondents. Truth be told, Australia Day is more popular than ever.
The Colours: If you happen, as a visitor, to see much green and gold out and about on Australia Day and wonder why that is, when the national flag is red, white and blue, keep this in mind. Green and gold have long associations with Australian sport, ever since the 1800s in fact (cricket and soccer fans know this all too well) but officially since 1984.The national colours have strong environmental links too. Gold represents the country’s beaches, mineral wealth, grain harvests and Australian wool – and presumably the 20% of the country that is desert. Green symbolises the forests and pastures of the landscape. And Australia’s national floral emblem – the golden wattle – is green and gold. So there you have it.
The Party in Parramatta
Hotel rooms in Parramatta book fast in advance of Australia Day – and with good reason. The business district and ‘burb 23 km west of Sydney throws a national day party of note. The heart of the revelry takes place in Parramatta Park. This massive expanse of greenery adjacent to Parramatta Stadium was once the Governor’s Domain, set aside as a farm for the chief administrator of the region.
This historical tidbit may well come in handy as you take in the sundry Australia Day events in the park – which include historical re-enactments, by the way. But wait, that’s not all. Parramatta Park will also host amusement rides, hot air balloons, stage performances, circus workshops, food vendors, a mini zoo, fireworks and, mercifully, a mist tent.
All in all, a phenomenal way to fête “The Lucky Country”, Australia.