Here are a number of symbols and rituals which are a central feature of ANZAC Day.
The Red Poppy
Red poppies were a common feature of World War One battlefields in both Europe and Asia. They have become a symbol of remembrance for those who died in war and those still serving. The Friday preceding Anzac Day each year is usually the day that red poppies are sold by volunteers. New Zealand’s first Poppy Day was held in 1922, when artificial poppies were sold to assist needy soldiers and their families. Ever since, the proceeds from Poppy Day have been used for the RSA’s welfare service. In other countries, Poppy Day occurs near Armistice Day (11 November) to mark the end of the First World War.
War memorials & secular ceremonies
Many Anzac Day ceremonies occur at war memorials. There are nearly 500 First World War memorials in New Zealand, most of which were erected in the 1920s. Until that time, the ceremonies took place in public buildings or churches, and sometimes had a strong religious focus. Many of these memorials will remember all service personal from the local area who died during war.
War memorials often symbolise remembrance, service and sacrifice. These themes, rather than a more religious message, emerged once Anzac Day ceremonies were held at memorials from the 1920s.
The dawn service A typical commemoration begins with a march by returned service personnel before dawn to the local war memorial. Military personnel and returned servicemen and women form up about the memorial, joined by other members of the community. Pride of place goes to war veterans.
A short service follows with a prayer, hymns (including Kipling’s ‘Recessional’ or ‘Lest we forget’) and a dedication that concludes with the fourth verse of Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
The last post is then played, and this is followed by a minute’s silence and the reveille. A brief address follows, after which the hymn ‘Recessional’ is sung. The service concludes with a prayer and the singing of the national anthem. Every ANZAC Day ceremony held around the world will include some or all of these elements.