Celebrating Public Holidays Overseas

Australia Day

For us exchange students in D.C., Australia Day was a non-event. However, there was an event held by a group called Australians in Washington D.C. They held a traditional Aussie Day BBQ, complete with meat pies (which are not available in America; at least, not the same as four-and-twenty), and VB. Sadly we couldn’t go as the event was over 21 only, and half of us are underage.


Studying at a Catholic University means classes were cancelled for Good Friday Easter Monday. Two of the Aussies took the long weekend as an opportunity to check out Canada. For the other two that remained and myself, I wanted to do something to make Easter more like home. I have spent Christmas, New Years, Easter and my birthday away from home before, and I know that they can be hard if you’re not completely comfortable where you are. It’s especially hard if you still live at home with your parents and are used to those holidays being family affairs.

I had a good friend visiting from home, and he agreed we had to do something on Easter Sunday. That morning I gave the girls their Easter bunnies, which were surprisingly hard to come by. We ended up buying them from the local pharmacy (pharmacies here also sell basic groceries), because nowhere else sold them! The girls were surprised and thankful at receiving the chocolate bunnies. He had the idea of cooking a roast, complete with vegies, lamb and gravy. We all got together and had a family dinner, and it was wonderful!

 ANZAC Memorial Service

Lest we forget.

The day began predictably early, at 4:30am. I arranged a cab as it was so early the Metro isn’t reliable and neither are the buses. Kayla, Amanda and Maddy were joining us for the Dawn Service at the Korean War Memorial in National Mall, so the cab was reasonably cheap.

I was impressed with the number of Australians and New Zealanders that showed up for the service. It was really great to see. They had the Aussie flag and New Zealand flag on flagpoles held by servicemen. Everyone in attendance was given a poppy to pin to their lapel. They followed the traditional dawn service program: an introduction, hymn, prayer, Kim Beazley made an address (I had no idea he was the Australian Ambassador in the United States), the wreaths were laid, recitation, the playing of the Last Post, and a minute of silence followed by a concluding speech. It was a beautiful service.

After the service concluded and the sun began to peak over the trees and the Washington Monument, we walked around the Korean Memorial to have a proper look at it, as none of us had seen it before. It is tucked to one side of the Lincoln Memorial, hidden in some trees. Having said that, it’s not a small memorial at all.

American Holidays

Of course we celebrated American holidays with our American friends. Pretty much any holiday is a chance to have a party and relax for a day, and they all take full advantage of that. We celebrated Inauguration Day, which was also Martin Luther King Day, Chinese New Year (which brought a lot of festivals and parades in Chinatown), President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day (which is crazy over here), Patriot’s Day, and Emancipation Day. I couldn’t tell you the story behind half of their holidays, but they were great fun nonetheless.

What are some ways that you have celebrated your national or public holidays overseas?