Australia's celebration of nationhood and national identify has progressed over the 200 years. What was once a celebration of Anglo-Saxon values have transformed into an Australia Day for everyone and multiculturalism with 98 percent of Australians stating that they are proud to be Australian and proud of the values that characterise Australia today. What was once celebrated by only 36 percent of the population in 1985 is now a nationwide event for 80 percent of Australians.
The Australia Day celebrations in Sydney draw from the rich history and cosmopolitan vibrancy of Australia's oldest and biggest city, thereby producing a spectacular variety of events for everyone. Here are the top 15 ways to celebrate Australia Day Sydney-style.
You can download loads of free resources including colouring-in sheets with flags, state birds and fauna, state flora emblems, puzzles and quizzes to help make Australia Day more meaningful for you and your kids at www.australiaday.com.au/havingfun/activitysheets.aspx .
What started off in the summer of 1837 as a sailing regatta among some friends to celebrate the founding of their new nation is not only the world's oldest continuous regatta but the most iconic and centrepiece event of Australia Day in Sydney.
In the recent years, some 700 vessels ranging from 18 foot skiffs to large ocean racing yachts have participated, dressed in a range of Australian colours and decorations. Vessels are encouraged to enter the "Best Dressed Vessels Competition" where judges on and around the Harbour are looking out for boats that catch their eye. Do whatever it takes to get yourself on a sailing vessel and join in the 177th Australia Day Regatta.
21 Gun Salute
21 Gun Salute / Photograph by tunnelarmr of Flickr
Australia Day would not be complete without the 21 Gun Salute delivered by the Australia Defence Force at 12pm near Mrs Macquaries Point in the Royal Botanic Gardens to commemorate the federation of Australia.
From 11.30am, Darling Harbour will be transformed into a huge and free Australia Day Party with an extensive line up of live music, children's activities and the awaited Australia Day Spectacular at night. By day, the area will be alive with reggae, African, Arabic and Caribbean music, indigenous dances and roving stilt walkers and street performers.
By evening, Cockle Bay will be the site of the Twilight Ceremony, a civic celebration from 7pm including an official address from the NSW Premier, before the grand finale of Sydney's Australia Day celebration at 8.30pm.
The Darling Harbour Australia Day Spectacular from 8.30pm to 9pm promises a stunning multimedia symphony of light and sound, culminating in a fireworks extravaganza. Four Points Sheraton offers great views of the fireworks without the crowd. Visit www.darlingharbour.com for more updates from Darling Harbour.
View Stories from Australia's First Parliament
NSW Parliament / Photograph by betta design of Flickr
For residents and visitors who have never stepped into the New South Wales Parliament House, a walk through its historic Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council chambers and other heritage spaces makes for an interesting and educational visit. Open to visitors on Australia Day from 10am, you can learn about the traditions Australia shares with the Westminster system and how laws are made and amended. In addition, the Parliament will also be presenting a special exhibition with "Stories from Australia's First Parliament", featuring some never before seen artifacts from the Parliament's own collection. For more information about the exhibition, visit www.parliament.nsw.gov.au
Family Fun at Hyde Park North
Hyde Park North / Photograph by RubyGoes of Flickr
Hyde Park North is transformed into a family playground from 9am to 4pm. The Australia Day Summer Playground will feature a variety of activities and shows for kids and parents to enjoy including a morning fitness class, colouring area, animal farm and performances by Dorothy the Dinosaur, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, Skippy, DirtGirl World and The Wiggles.
The Ferrython is an annual large-scale free spectator event that never fails to draw masses of people to the boats and harbour foreshore. Beginning at 11am, join in one of Sydney's most loved Australia Day event and watch green and yellow ferries power down the Harbour and back to the finish line under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Australia Day Council of NSW (ADCNSW) has introduced a creative competition for Australians primary school students as part of the Australia Day celebrations. All students are invited to explore the Australian culture and national identity through an illustration and brief description of what makes Australia special to them.
Entries for this competition which closes on 18 February 2013 will be categorised based on the students' year. Finalists will be announced on 25 February 2013 and winners of the various divisions on 8 March 2013. Prizes include AUD500 on a debit card and the overall winner gets a 9-night cruise valued at AUD4,796.
All your child needs to do is to create an artwork on the given Aussie Art template illustrating 'what makes Australia a special place to live' along with a 25 words or less description of the artwork. Fore more information about the competition and entry, visit www.australiaday.com.au
Sydney Opera House will be transformed into an entertainment and culinary hub and the playground for more than 1 million visitors in January alone. Summer will be celebrated with a village green atmosphere and loads of free activities and experiences inside and outside the iconic venue. On Australia Day, the Sydney Opera House will feature live music and DJ entertainment, free children activities, pop-up food stalls, tours, shows and a discounted AUD25 same day performance tickets from 8.30am. For more information on its Australian Day activities and shows, visit www.sydneyoperahouse.com
Some readers may remember Sydney's first motoring celebration on Australia Day in 1986. Thanks to the sponsorship of Supercar d'Elegance, Sydney will host one of the largest vehicle displays in the southern hemisphere on Australia Day 2013. In addition to the traditional display of veteran, vintage and classic cars, buses and trucks, the organisers are introducing high performance and luxury vehicles to wow motoring enthusiasts and their families. The Australia Day CARnivale will feature a Supercar Gathering, a Motorcycle Display, a Concours d'Elegance or 'Best of the Best' Competition, and a Concours d'Elegance 'Prestige Oblige'. For more information about registering a vehicle and on-the-day event details, visit www.supercardelegance.com.au.
Celebrate with Everyone in the Office
Photograph by Barnacles Hostels of Flickr
Folks in the office, workplace or any place of business can join in the celebrations on the eve of Australia Day 2013 by registering for the "Australia Day In The Office" program.
The first 100 to register will receive a free pack to help with office decorations. You and your colleagues will also go into a draw to win free catering at your party with the winner notified on 17 January 2013. It is a fun reason to build closer relationships between everyone in the office.
One of Sydney's iconic historic sites will once again be the stage of the Festival of the Voice on Australia Day. This free live music festival is a celebration of the Australian music scene, featuring local singers and songwriters of all genres.
The Festival will feature a number of stages throughout the Rocks with the main stage under the Harbour Bridge. With a line-up of amazing local and internationally-recognised talent, you'll be able to enjoy a wide range of music including jazz, soul and blues, funk and rock, opera and acapella harmonies. For more information about the various performances, visi www.therocks.com
Visit the Historic Houses Trust Properties
Elizabeth Bay House / Photograph by Sydney Heritage of Flickr
The Historic Houses Trust is one of the major state museums in Australia and one of NSW's premier State cultural institutions. It has 12 museums and sites open to the public including the Government House, The Mint, Museum of Sydney, the Justice & Police Museum, Hyde Park Barracks Museum, Susannah Place Museum, Vaucluse House, Elizabeth Bay House, Rose Seidler House, Rouse Hill House & Farm, Elizabeth Farm and Meroogal.
Some of the houses like the Vaucluse House, are interesting. They provide an insight into life in Sydney during the 19th century days of horse and carriage. To celebrate Australia Day, the Historic Houses Trust is offering concession entries to all its properties. You will also receive a special offer for a return visit to any of their properties. For more information about each property, visiting times and entry prices, visi www.hht.net.au
Fans of the sun, sand and surf can celebrate Australia Day at one of the most iconic beaches. Bondi Beach will be the stage for the annual Havaianas Thong Challenge in Sydney where you can witness a spectacle of people on inflatable Havaianas thongs. In 2012 a new World Record was set by Cottesloe with 2088 people in the water.
Photograph by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer of Flickr
In addition to the 2013 World Record attempt, Campbell Parade will be transformed into one giant beachside party with activities and barbeques from 9am to 2pm. For more details about the event and how to participate, visi www.havaianasthongchallenge.com.au
Celebrate and decorate your Australia Day by dressing up yourself, your office, home, car or boat in ways that demonstrate the Australian spirit and shows you're proud to call Australia home. Better yet, get your neighbours together and create a visual masterpiece by decorating the facade of all your homes with the symbolic colours of Australia and flying the Australian flag. Make it your day of celebration for family, friends and fellow Aussies.