It is the 26th of January and if you are in Australia or planning a trip down under, this is undoubtedly the best day of the year to be in my adopted homeland. It’s summertime, a public holiday and everybody is celebrating.
The day usually begins at midday, the same time Triple J begins their Hottest 100 countdown. Every December, Triple J (a youth focused radio station) allows you to vote for your favourite 10 songs of the year. On Australia Day, they play the top 100 songs counting down to number 1. It is the largest music poll in the world, over a million people voted in 2011. So on Australia Day, you find a BBQ – be it down on the beach or at someone’s house – bring some beers, put on the Hottest 100 and celebrate Australia and life in general. The national Big Day Out music festival also usually coincides with Australia Day and for some reason, the Sydney Big Day Out is often the hottest day of the year in the city.
A little bit of history – Australia Day is the national day of Australia and celebrates the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. The First Fleet was a group of 11 ships from Great Britain largely carrying convicts (they used to take prisoners to Australia). Australia Day commemorates the first British settlement in Australia. There are records of celebrations being held as early as 1808.
Today, Australia Day is an excuse to get into the spirit of Australia and have a big party, be it in Australia or overseas. I remember trying to get into the Australian pub in Paris one Australia Day only to find that it was completely full – of Australians, Kiwis and the French in equal numbers. Despite waving Australian passports at the bouncer, we were refused entry… because everyone gets to be Australian on Australia Day!
Last year, I found myself on an island called Florianopolis in Brasil. Somehow all us Australians found each other on Australia Day, hijacked a swimming pool, a stereo to stream the Hottest 100 and a BBQ in a hostel and used body paint and magic markers to turn everyone else Australian for the day.
On that note, Happy Australia Day! I am going to return to the Hottest 100 now…