Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Australian Public Holidays

In Australia those days where everyone who is in full time employment (except those who are self employed) gets the day off and still gets paid for it are officially known as public holidays. Most people just refer to them as long weekends since most of them fall on a Monday.

There are nine public holidays in Australia in most years. Some of these are held at different times in different states and some states throw in an extra day or two. Here is a list of those that apply Australia wide and when they usually occur:

  • 1st January new years day, also the anniversary of the formation of Australia with Federation on 1st January 1901. Where this day lands on a weekend the following Monday is usually a holiday. Where it falls on a Tuesday the preceding Monday may also be declared a public holiday.
  • 26th January Australia day celebrates the invasion of Australia by England with the arrival of the first fleet on that day in 1788.
  • Good Friday A Christian holy day dating back to the days when Christians still used the lunar calendar which is why the date changes from year to year depending on the phases of the moon.
  • Easter Day always falls on a Sunday so following a long time Australian tradition the following Monday is a public holiday.
  • 25th April ANZAC day is the day when Australians remember all those who have made sacrifices for Australia in time of war. The day itself commemorates the day in 1915 when the British Lord Admiral Churchill stupidly sent Australian, New Zealand, and British forces into Gallipoli from where they were supposed to move overland and take out the guns protecting the straight which was preventing British warships entering the Black Sea. Unfortunately due to the poor quality of the available maps they picked a landing site from which it would have been impossible to reach their objective even if they had managed to defeat the turks that were defending. This public holoday now tends to be held on the correct day even when it does fall on a weekend.
  • Queen’s Birthday generally held the second Monday in June (except in WA which having celebrated their Foundation Day the Monday before put it off until later in the year). The Queen’s actual birthday is in April but the date is supposedly fixed to correspond to the birth of King George III who was king at the time the day was established although why they chose the second Monday when his birthday was the 3rd I don’t know.
  • Labour Day I have never quite figured out the reason for this public holiday which is held at different times in different states. In NSW it is held on the first Monday in October and that long weekend is when the NSW branch of the Australian Model Railway Association hold their annual exhibition.
  • Christmas Day 25th December is a pagan festival that dates back many thousands of years celebrating the winter solstice (in the northern hemisphere) and the rebirth of the sun. It was adopted by Christians in about 400AD as the date to celebrate the birth of Christ since at that time they had no idea of when Christ’s actual birth date was and needed to provide a Christian reason for celebrating on that day. Christ’s birth is now believed to have been in June 6BC but that hasn’t changed the date of the celebration any more than the different kings and queens have changed the date on which the queen’s birthday is celebrated.
  • Boxing Day on 26th December dates back several hundred years to a British upper class tradition of giving boxes of money to those who worked for them. These days those working in retail do not get the day off as it it the day with the biggest sales of the entire year.
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