Wednesday, April 25, 2007

anzac day dawn parade

poppies.jpg Christchurch Square. The place is packed. I have to park 4 blocks away, on the far side of Barbadoes Street. It is standing room only all around the Square, all at 6:30 am on a public holiday.

The PA system is not working and for a 30 minute service, we will basically hear nothing. Still the thousands in the crowd will stand motionless. There is no texting, no talking, no hilarity. Fathers hold babies. Children stand. Teens cuddle.

The service has good ritual moments – the trumpet, the gun volleys, the silence, the band playing, the wide variety of participation by bands and wreath laying groups.

There are 5 songs, with brass band accompaniement. But no one sings. Is this because we have no words? Or know no words? Or need no words?

Once finished, the crowd pour onto the centotaph. Young and old lay poppies, their poppies. I will go for breakfast and return through the square and past the centotaph 2 hours later. Still young and old are gathered, looking at the wreaths.

And they say there’s no such thing as Kiwi spirituality; when thousands of people gather at dawn, when they stand motionless for 30 minutes, when they remain for hours to personally adorn a memorial?

Posted by steve at 12:18 PM


  1. Hello Steve,
    I had exactly the same thoughts as I participated in the dawn service at Hamilton – I blogged the experience here.
    The increasing interest in ANZAC Day dawn parades is significant I think. Not only are people seeking to connect in a deeper way with what it is to be a New Zealander, but also to connect with God, even though many people wouldn’t express it that way.

    Comment by Simon — April 27, 2007 @ 2:27 pm

  2. I wasn’t at the Dawn Parade this year, but I did go to 10am ANZAC service at my local.

    Frankly the service gave me goosebumps… and NOT in a good way.

    The undercurrent seems to be ‘we must not forget the sacrifices our grandparents made, because we’re going to have to do this again one day’.

    And if that’s the lesson we learned from two world wars, I weep for the future.

    We seem to find it extraordinarily difficult as Christians to say: war is not good and not necessary and not God’s command and we should reject it forevermore and fight with the spiritual tools of love and truth and charity and mercy instead.

    But no. Instead we get a mournful, solemn and heavy reminder that ‘their sacrifice must not be forgotten’. We must keep the poison that killed millions forever within our reach, just in case we *really need* to drink it again.

    Comment by Nate — April 29, 2007 @ 2:09 am

  3. Nate,
    I wonder if different services end up with different emphases. Here is what was said at Gallipoli this year: “In remembering the suffering and loss on both sides, let us commit ourselves to working for a world where differences between nations can be resolved without resort to war. That is the way that we can best honour the men who fought and died here.”

    Said by one Winston Peters. (Full text is here

    That’s quite a strong plug for peace.


    Comment by steve — April 29, 2007 @ 8:20 am

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