It's impossible to go more than 50 metres down any street in town today -- and probably across any Australian town -- without hearing the sounds of partying. It's a designated party day, with many people firing up the barbecue at breakfast and keeping it burning until after sun-down. There'll be eskies and old paddling pools full of ice and slabs of beer and wine and soft drinks, and the smell of kangaroo steaks, emu burgers, prawns and calamari cooking; there'll be Pavlova and fruit salad, lamingtons and anything else Australians want to claim as their own. It's Australia Day, whatever that means -- and it means different things to different people -- but the overall flavour of the day is one of official ceremonies (where government bodies recognise the achievements of individuals of diverse ethnic origins and present Orders of Australia and certificates of citizenship) along with both private and public parties.
It's either Australia Day or Invasion Day, depending on how you see it. Either way, the day marks the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay on 26th January, 1788, and the British colonisation of this land. For many, this remains a matter of regret, although Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to indigenous Australians in 2008 may have paved the way to redress this and to allow some of the wounds to heal. So it's also a time to reflect and commit to improving the quality of life for all Australians.
While I don't go a bundle on flag-waving and get a bit edgy about anything that might smack of nationalism in an unthinking or jingoistic sense, preferring to advocate a common global humanity instead, I'm all for public holidays, long weekends and partying. Consequently, I had a fine time at the house of friends, enjoying good company, a barbecue, wonderful desserts, an esky full of iced beer and wine... Cheers.