Australia Holiday Packages

What holidays does Australia celebrate?


LOCATION: Australia

POPULATION: 18 million

LANGUAGE: English

RELIGION: Christianity (majority); Islam; Buddhism; Judaism

1 • INTRODUCTION

Australia is relatively young as a country, but it is a very ancient land. For over 40, 000 years Aboriginal people lived in harmony there with their environment. When England first settled Australia in 1788, however, and made it a penal colony for its overcrowded prison population, all that was to change.

Today, Australia is considered a "settler colony, " a term used to describe countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States: countries originally colonized by the British and where the indigenous (native) peoples were almost completely wiped out.

2 • LOCATION

Australia is both a continent and an island, situated in the southern hemisphere between the Pacific and Indian oceans. It measures about the same in area as the United States (excluding Alaska), yet it has a population of only 18 million people. Of those 18 million people, 80 percent live in just ten cities, all by the sea. By far the largest of these cities are Sydney and Melbourne.

Because the country was first settled by England in 1788, most Australians are of English origin. Until the end of World War II (1939–45), some 90 percent of Australians were born there, and about 9 percent were immigrants from Britain. However, after the war ended, the country took in more than 5 million immigrants from Europe. In the 1970s and 1980s, Australia was a major recipient of refugees from the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia. Aboriginal Australians (native people) make up about one percent of the total Australian population.

3 • LANGUAGE

The language of Australia is English, brought by the first English settlers.

4 • FOLKLORE

The folklore of the Australians is essentially the same as the folklore of British colonialists everywhere. Australians see themselves as part of European culture and, because of their high standard of living, they are part of the industrialized world.

Australians describe themselves as hearty and self-reliant. This feeling comes from having conquered a sometimes brutal landscape. They also see themselves as distinct because of their history of being founded as a penal colony. This means that the first settlers were prisoners from English jails. This creates a feeling of rebelliousness. Australians have almost a sense of being the "black sheep" of the English-speaking world.

5 • RELIGION

Australia is a predominantly Christian country. In the 1990s, most people were Anglican, and the second-largest number were Catholic.

6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Apart from those holidays celebrated throughout the Western world, such as Christmas and Easter, Australia celebrates some of its own. Anzac Day on April 25 honors Australians who died in all wars. ("Anzac" stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.) Australia Day is celebrated on January 26. This was the day in 1788 when the English soldiers raised their flag and declared Australia a new colony. Today, it is celebrated with street fairs, parties, picnics, and fireworks. It coincides with the last days of the long summer vacation from school and is a fun time for families.

Boxing Day (December 26) is also a public holiday in Australia. It is known as a traditional day to spend at the beach. In practical terms it makes for a longer Christmas break. Its name comes from the old English custom of giving boxed gifts to employees.

7 • RITES OF PASSAGE

Many of the rites of passage among Australians center around schooling. When students are in the twelfth grade they attend a senior school dance called the formal. This is like the American tradition of prom night. Students hire limousines to attend a formal function sponsored by their school, usually held at a somewhat glamorous location.

The eighteenth birthday party is a large, peer-group party celebrating entry into the adult world. At age eighteen, the young adult is given all legal rights. The twenty-first birthday celebration, a much more traditional family-and-friend celebration party, is often held in a hotel or restaurant. Gifts are traditionally given, and this celebration often marks the time the young person leaves home to live independently.

8 • RELATIONSHIPS

Men shake hands when introduced to each other or to a woman. Women often greet other women with a kiss on the cheek.

Pub life—the sharing of drinks with friends at a bar—plays a large role in most Australians' social lives. When invited to dinner, guests are usually asked to come at "7:30 for 8:30." This means guests should arrive somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30 PM for pre-dinner drinks, with dinner to be served at 8:30.

Young people in Australia usually begin dating around age fourteen or fifteen. They make their own choices of friends and partners in life. They tend to marry in their mid-twenties.

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