Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day is a special public holiday celebrating history in New Zealand. Held each year on 6th February, this holiday commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the founding document of New Zealand. This document made New Zealand part of the British Empire. Annual celebrations for this holiday didn't begin until 1947 but since then, celebrations are held across New Zealand.

Waitangi Day is a special public holiday celebrating history in New Zealand. Held each year on 6th February, this holiday commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the founding document of New Zealand. This document made New Zealand part of the British Empire. Annual celebrations for this holiday didn't begin until 1947 but since then, celebrations are held across New Zealand.

 

Celebrations for Waitangi Day fall into two categories. There are the official festivities held at Waitangi, and the regular activities that people enjoy on their day off. While some people celebrate the history, others simply enjoy the public holiday as a break from work and opportunity to spend time with friends and family.

Waitangi

The centre of official celebrations is in Waitangi, where the treaty was signed. Here, celebrations kick off the night before the official holiday, on 5 February. This gathering has a political nature, and political dignitaries gather to hear speeches and debate important issues. The following morning at dawn, the Royal New Zealand Navy has the responsibility of raising the New Zealand Flag in the treaty grounds.

 

Throughout the day at Waitangi there are other festivities as well, including church services, concerts, and dance performances. There is also a historical re-enactment of the governor being called onshore to sign the treaty. The day of celebrations finishes with the Navy lowering the flag as part of a larger official ceremony.

Throughout New Zealand

Beyond Waitangi, this public holiday is celebrated in different ways. Communities plan public concerts and festivals. This day also happens to be Bob Marley's birthday, so reggae concerts and his music are especially popular for these community concerts. While this is the national holiday of New Zealand, it doesn't have celebrations similar to other countries such as fireworks or parades. It is a fairly simple celebration, with many people taking the opportunity to spend the day at the beach with their loved ones.

 

There are a couple events worth attending throughout New Zealand to celebrate this holiday. One of the biggest is 'One Love' festival in Wellington, celebrating peace. Another option is the 'Groove in the Park' held in Western Springs.

Outside New Zealand

London is home to a big expatriate population and Waitangi Day celebrations are also found here. A number of events have evolved over the years in London including a pub crawl along the Underground's Circle Line, an official Waitangi Day Ball, and even a large scale haka performed in Parliament Square as Big Ben strikes 4 p.m. Awards are also given on the day, such as UK New Zealander of the Year award.

 

Beyond London, other places with large populations of people from New Zealand have also founded their own Waitangi Day celebrations. The Gold Coast in Australia also has big celebrations including concerts and other festivities planned around Pacific Island culture. Over 10,000 people gather at Carrera Stadium to celebrate the holiday and listen to music.

 

(photo courtesy of Martina Mc Auley)

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