Rugby union is a popular winter sport in Australia, and has been played in that country since 1864. Australia supports both amateur and professional teams in the sport.
Internal competitions in rugby union include the Super 14, a multi-region competition. Australia also competes in rugby union internationally, and the national team the Wallabies have twice won the Rugby World Cup.
Although Australia is a multicultural country, the main religion is still Christianity and Christmas is a major holiday in Australia. It is celebrated with the exchange of presents, and usually a family gathering on the day itself.
The main holiday of Christmas is only one day that is celebrated in this holiday season. Boxing Day is another public holiday Australia-wide, and many sporting events take place on Boxing Day. Boxing Day is also the traditional day for major sales in the big cities. In all, Christmas is a three-day event in Australia, from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, and many Australians take the week between Boxing Day and New Year's Day off.
People of European descent make up around 95% of Australia´s citizens. The majority have a British or Irish heritage, but about 18% of the total population have other European origins. People from Asia and the Middle East account for around 4% of the population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up just 1% of the population. Australia welcomes a number of refugees from war-torn and troubled countries, and the diversity of immigrants to Australia makes for a rich, multicultural society.
Every 18 to 30 months, a team of cricketers from either Australia or England jets over to their opposite's country for several weeks of sport. The event is called the Ashes and is central to cricket in either country.
The Ashes began in 1882, when the English team lost on home soil for the first time to Australia. An obituary was published, declaring English cricket dead and that the body would be cremated and the ashes sent to Australia. Shortly after, an English team set off to tour Australia and the English captain, Ivo Bligh (Lord Darnley), declared he would bring the ashes back.
The metaphor was given body by some ladies in Melbourne, who presented Bligh with a small ceramic urn containing ashes. The urn became the symbol of the competition which takes place roughly every two years (with varying gaps, as the summer game is played in alternating hemispheres). The urn itself is not awarded to the winners of the Ashes, but remains in the museum at Lord's. Since 1998, the teams have competed for a Waterford crystal trophy.
The Ashes is Test cricket, consisting of five five-day games. Whichever side wins the most games is the winner. If there is a draw, the trophy remains with the winner of the previous series.
ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and is the name these troops were given in 1915 when Allied Forces were co-ordinating a campaign in Turkey. The troops landed on the beach at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, and battled in trenches there for eight months.
Since then, ANZAC is a label that has been used for only a few campaigns but has come to stand for Australian or New Zealand troops. Love of 'Anzac spirit' is one of the few demonstrably patriotic things Australians tend to do. 'Anzac' is a term that is bitter-sweet for most Australians and New Zealanders, as it represents loyalty, spirit and mateship in the face of extreme hardship and imminent, pointless death. Australian WWI reporter Charles Bean summed it up neatly: 'Anzac stood, and still stands, for reckless valor in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat.'
Strangely enough, the continued remembrance of the 1915 ANZAC troops has led to a special close relationship between Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, filled with mutual respect for valour in war.
The slouch hat is a familiar sight associated with the Army in Australia. Manufactured by the Akubra company, which also manufactures the distinctive Australian bush hats of the company's name, the slouch hat is a double-peaked, wide-brim felt hat that typically has one side of the brim pinned up. This makes it easier to carry a rifle.
The slouch hat was not invented in Australia, although it has a long association with the country. The hats have long been worn by armies around the world, but became standard issue for Australian soldiers in around 1885.
The brim of a slouch hat was once pinned using the rising sun badge or other badge of particular significance, but in modern times the had comes equipped with a hidden hook-and-eye allowing the left side to be hooked up without messing around with pins. Badges still are worn on the upturned brim.