Every year on January 26th the country of Australia descends in to a turmoil of patriotism filled with drinking, eating and celebrating. Aptly called ‘Australia Day’ it signifies the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet (or something slightly less positive if you’re of aboriginal descent, but that’s another post for another day…) and the moment this massive landmass first started it’s journey to becoming the country it is today.
This will be my fourth Australia day since moving out here and, unfortunately, my third working. But do I feel bitter abut all those hours spent slaving away when I could be celebrating? No. My first ‘Straya day’ was so bloody brilliant – it is still one of my favourite ever days here – that I don’t really know if I’ll ever be able to top it. But here are some handy hints to anyone unaware of the usual traditions who isn’t working and is keen on getting involved.
Jump out of a perfectly good plane
I chose Australia day in 2011 as the time to do my second tandem skydive. Good idea? Excellent idea! The actual jump itself was delayed by less than perfect weather which actually worked out in my favour. I got a cheeky nap in before my jump and my feet were safely back on sand by the time the pub was open. Result!
The only downside was that I’d taken off my shirt for nap time and had forgotten to put it back on. The white strappy top that was the only thing standing between my boobs and freedom ended up blending in nicely to the sky making me look a little underdressed in most of the photos. Oh well, Straya and all that jazz.
If you’re thinking about doing a skydive anyway then I highly recommend planning it for a big ‘event’ day. You’re so pumped up by the adrenaline that if there’s nothing else to keep you buoyed up and going there’s a fair chance you’ll crash out (this happened to me for my first skydive, I fell asleep by 1pm). Jump before a day of drinking though and that excitement and enthusiasm is only going to fuel the party fire!
Throw a snag on the barbie
I’m going to level with you here guys, no one ever throws shrimps on the barbie. They usually stick to the usual burgers and steak combo with salads on the side, disappointingly similar to British fare (only with less rain). Even more shocking? For some reason they don’t have sausage baps in Australia and instead choose to wrap their sausages, or ‘snags’ if you want to use the local lingo, in slices of bread. Given that Australia day is usually accompanied with a fair bit of drinking this is not the time to get fancy. Chuck some sausages on your BBQ, whack ’em in a slice of white and shove it in your face. Straya!
Sure, you could play cricket somewhere normal like a garden, but for maximum Aussie-ness I recommend heading down to the beach. Thankfully three years ago we were drinking in an apartment right on the beach which is cheating slightly, but shush. Regardless of where you are, you must involve a cricket match somewhere in your day. To be forever remembered as a legend make sure to hit the stumps with your bat, snap it in two and manage to swing with such force that the broken end becomes wedged in the fork of a tree (true story, not me)*.
Top marks if you can hit a six while still holding a beer.
Triple J and drinking
To those unacquainted with this famous Aussie Radio station…it’s like if BBC 6 Music had a baby with Radio 1**. Triple J is the most listened to youth station over here but they’re also unlikely to play any LMFAO or Taylor Swift***. Every year on Australia Day they spend a good eight hours counting down the Top 100 songs of the year, as voted for by listeners, in the imaginatively named ‘Hottest 100’. It’s traditional to listen to the whole lot if possible, preferably while playing the drinking game. The result is basically excellent music and a lot of beer, so you can see why it’s a popular pastime.
For those who haven’t played the drinking game before, it’s a shot (of your beer, cider etc) for: each song, if you don’t finish your shot, if you mention work, drink with your proper hand…and whatever other rules you’d like to enforce. Shots of cider don’t sound too bad until you’ve been playing cricket for an hour and have missed 12 songs.
This doesn’t apply to everyone but I got to see – and hear – my first Kookaburra on Australia day. It seemed fitting.
Lots of Australian flags on everything
‘Strayans aren’t ashamed of displaying their national flag with pride, but not in the almost reverent way Americans do it. The second Christmas is over, and before the hot cross buns can creep in, shop shelves become full of every imaginable thing covered in the flag. Cups, plates, transfer tattoos, mini flags, napkins, flip flops (sorry, thongs) inflatables, coolies… If you can imagine using it at a BBQ and can conceivably have it blue in with a Union Flag somewhere then BAM you can buy it in Coles.
You may want to reconsider transfer tattoos on your face if you have work the next day though, my attempts to scrub mine off left me with two alarming looking purple patches under each eye causing more than one person to gently ask if I was okay in a very worried, motherly way.
100% Aussie Beef
If you spend the day exclusively with Germans, Brits or Swedes then you’ve been cheating. You need at least three Australians to count, imo, because who else will explain the intricate rules of beach cricket or exactly why XXXX is superior to VB otherwise? Sure on the surface Australians don’t seem to have a particularly different culture to us but, trust me on this, scratch the surface and there’s a whole world underneath. Plus they’re usually pretty hilarious.
^^^The two Pete’s. Prime Aussie beef, of course.
Basically you need to make sure you have a fridge full of beer and meat, a reasonably loud radio, crickets bats and a shedload of mates. If by the end of the day your vision isn’t slightly blurred, your cheeks don’t hurt from laughing and your table doesn’t look like the below (after at least two half time clear ups) you’re doing it wrong.
Happy Australia day everyone! I for one am happy to celebrate the fact that I’m still living in the country that I fell in love with all those years ago. Cheers, mate!
*While writing this post, this story popped in my Facebook newsfeed, so there you go.
**For non Brits: I once heard them say “…register online and you could win a shitload of stuff. Next up we’ve got that eight minute Led Zepplin remix.” Natch.
***Yes, I voted.