Australia Day 2023

This Thursday was observed as Australia Day. The date celebrates the coming of the First Fleet into Aussie shores. Though the day falls on a Thursday, it is marked as a national holiday. Call centres of most national and multinational companies take a brief break. Specialty retailers are hit and miss in terms of opening times. Supermarkets are open, as are restaurants, cafes, and shopping malls. Straya day is associated with barbies (barbecues). It’s very common to ogle paunchy, middle aged, and balding gentlemen tossing a few sausages on the poolside grill. The kids love it. Everyone gets to splash and frolic in the water. Toss in some alcohol and you’ve got the classic Aussie holiday combo: a beer and a barbie. In case you’re wondering, libraries are closed but expect the cinemas to be packed. Everyone yearns for the air con in these hot times.


In this year’s staging, there was a special promo thrown around. Hundreds of swimming pools across the nation offered complimentary poolside passes during the holiday. This ensured that no one was left behind. Aside from the pools, the beaches are probably the hottest ticket in town. From Bondi to Brontë, Brighton to Manly, everybody is up for the surf and the sun. Thus, the celebrations usually coincide with sunny weather. The air is humid and the sky is clear as the day unfolds in the height of summer.


Oz day is likewise traditionally associated with citizenship ceremonies. The custom of gathering and swearing in new Aussies has been going on since time immemorial. However, this edition featured a lot less of the type. Probably a COVID thing. Indeed, this marks the first real Oz Day since COVID hit roughly three years ago. We’ve endured lockdowns and natural disasters. We’ve had to practice social distancing and get vaccinations. Overseas travel has been out of the question. With no more social distancing, jam packed beaches are back to pre COVID levels.

Melbourne Park

As usual, Oz Day coincides with the tail-end of the Aussie Open. The men’s semis transpired on Thursday evening, with fireworks interrupting play for ten minutes. Novak Djokovic is back with a vengeance and he’s the favourite to win. The world number four has had a turbulent year as he tries to stay on tour despite being unvaccinated. As a result, he had to miss last year’s edition. This time though, Rafa’s been knocked off early. This means that Djokovic’s path is clear for a record-extending tenth victory at Melbourne Park. This would also nab him his record 22nd career slam, which is one more than Nadal.

I wanted to witness his match against Aussie number one, Alex De Minaur. I didn’t follow through as I knew who’d win. The Joker completely overwhelmed The Demon in spite of his alleged injury. He was looking good out there, and even Alex said so. Injured or not, Nole plays his best tennis at the Open. My chiropractor went to Melbourne for a week to watch the action firsthand. He told me that he’s ‘getting in’ on the hype. Yesterday, 28 January, Djokovic battled Tommy Paul for a spot in the men’s final. As usual, the Joker played in centre court. Paul kept up in the first set, rallying from 1-5 down to level the score. However, he ran out of gas in the second set, only taking one game. From there, it was only a matter of time.

In the other semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas was too good for his opponent. It was third time lucky for the Greek, who had previously lost his two semis at the Open. He made light of the tremendous support at Melbourne, calling it his ‘home grand slam’. The city is famous for having a huge Greek contingent. In the past, players like Mark Philipoussis and Marcos Baghdatis had enjoyed the same level of adulation. However, Tsisipas has progressed further than Mark ever did in his home slam. Cypriot Marcos took a set off Federer in 2006, the edition best remembered for Roger crying like a baby after receiving the trophy from Rod Laver.

Sunny day

Oz Day is usually sunny. Many moons ago, I remember celebrating it with my cousins. I think it was 35 degrees. It was even hotter when I was in uni. I had been tuning in on Andy Roddick’s match when my friend and I decided to catch this animated Disney flick at the Burwood cinemas. We had to snack on ice cream as it was Saharan out there.

Oz Day celebrations also honour outstanding Aussies. The Prime Minister presents the Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the year, Order of Australia awards, amongst other accolades. This highlights the tireless citizens whose tremendous and selfless work merits recognition on the national stage. This year, a Sudanese footballer was honoured. There was also this Sikh local hero who provided nourishment for the homeless.


Of course, there remains some controversy regarding Oz Day. Critics have singled out the day as it commemorates the First Fleet. They see it as quite Anglocentric and elitist, even bigoted. They reason that, prior to European colonisation, Indigenous peoples have subsisted on this land for Millenia. Why then, they ask, should we honour the settlers when we’ve neglected the First Nations? In effect, they move to repair the appellation. ‘Australia Day’ to these detractors, is both misleading and not inclusive. While we’re at it, we should also update the flag and the national anthem.

For now though, let’s stick with Australia Day. I look forward to the singles finals in Melbourne. (Tonight and tomorrow,) we’ll crown new slam victors. Last night, Sabalenka fought back from a set down to overpower Rybakina for the women’s plum. The reign of local champ, Ash Barty, (will come) has officially come to an end. Moreover, we may very well see Novak’s return atop the podium in no time. He is, after all, an immaculate nine and zip here in the championship round. See you next year.

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