Waitangi Day is a national holiday of New Zealand widely celebrated all over the country. That day people of New Zealand belonging to different social groups, confessions and origins gather to celebrate the event which is considered to be the founding of New Zealand. So, when is Waitangi Day in 2020? Waitangi Day is celebrated on the same date every year on 6 February.
The history of Waitangi Day
The first people who explored and colonized the New Zealand were Polynesians. That happened sometime between 950 and 1130 AD. The first contact of indigenes with Europeans was in 1642 when Holland discoverer Abel Tasman arrived on his ship to the coast of New Zealand. At the end of the eighteenth century mainly whaler crews, merchants and preachers visited the country founding their settlements mostly along the coastline.
In the middle of the nineteenth century the British Crown was deeply concerned by expanding rumors of French government intentions to add the New Zealand to their overseas territories. As a result British emissaries were sent to contact and establish the neighborly relationships with local tribes and also to make quick preparation for colonization process.
In 1840 the representatives of British Commonwealth met with local Maori leaders (the name of native tribes lived on the territory of New Zealand that time) at Waitangi. The purpose of that meeting was signing treaty document which later was called The Treaty of Waitangi. In accordance with the basic provisions of the document Maori people got the equal rights with British, preserved their lands and ownership, and also established the British Governor of New Zealand. After the signing of the document one of the members of British delegation said the historic words, “We are one nation now”.
Based on historical facts and events, what is the date of Waitangi Day? The celebration will occur the same day as Treaty of Waitangi originally was signed.
Waitangi Day celebration in past
No holiday events were held until 1934. Two year earlier then Governor gave the historical building where the ceremony of signing took place (so called Treaty House) and surrounding land plot to the nation. He expected that it would become a national memorable place, symbolizing the Treaty of Waitangi as starting point of remarkable relationships between the aboriginals and the colonists. On the first celebration in February 1934 presented over 10,000 people. That was the day when New Zealander’s looked back on the past and thought about the future.
Though, it wasn’t celebrated as national holiday until 1954. In the period from 1954 until 1976 it was renamed to New Zealand Day but after 1976 the original name Waitangi Day was back. The holiday never changed the date of celebration, so people wondering what day Waitangi Day in 2020 should know that it will be on Tuesday, February 6.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Nowadays The Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the important historic site of the nation where all official ceremonies are held, features:
- Recently founded and opened in February 2016 Waitangi Museum. The two-storey building contains different exhibitions and educational center.
- Restored to original condition the old building of famous Treaty House, which originally was the place where British representative James Busby lived with his family and made his business.
- Excellently carved Maori traditional The House of Assembly. The carves inside were made by one local tribe though the house presents all New Zealand tribes. It is located in front of Treaty House symbolizing the unity of two different cultures – Maori and European for creating of new nation.
- Waka – the largest ritual war canoe in the world. Its length is around 30 meters, weight 6 tons. The crew consists of about 75 paddlers and 50 passengers. Similar canoes were used by Maori ancestors to cross the ocean and make the new settlements. The Waka was built during 3 years by one tribe and pulled on water in 1940 while celebrating of centennial of signing the Treaty of Waitangi. Later, in the seventies, during the visit of British Queen to New Zealand was a held a special ceremony made the canoe a part of Royal Navy.
Present day celebration
When is day Waitangi Day 2020? The history clearly states that on February 6 but is it really summer holiday? Surprisingly but this is true. Due specific geographical location (in the Southern hemisphere) and climate features of New Zealand the season, when the holiday is celebrating, is summer. People mostly spend the day at the beaches and picnic places. It is largely a family holiday when family members of different generations can get together, enjoy socializing and holiday dinner. Traditionally holiday dinner consists of meal from different nations symbolizing uniting of nations to give birth the new one.
Special festival usually takes place in Waitangi. It is filled with different activities including national Maori customs, local authorities’ speeches, exhibitions, entertainment and dance shows with traditional kapa-haka (national Maori art of expression through moving and gestures), lots of food and crafts. One of the important parts of celebrating is naval salute.
Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand, starts the celebration activities in the heart of the city – Bastion Point, exactly the place where local Maori leaders invited the first Governor Hobson to found a city in 1841. Holiday activities spread all over the city after. Locals and tourists enjoy national Maori food, live entertainment events, dancing festivals and spectacular kite flying.
Wellington, the capital of the nation, keeps celebration activities in Waitangi Park presenting different sides of unique and original Maori culture. People are able to attend various exhibitions, showing the history of Maori and their culture, have walking tours, learn more about aboriginal tribes’ myths and legends and definitely kapa haka.
When is Waitangi Day, calendar can provide a hint? This is a good reminder for tourists and guests of the country visiting for business and other purposes that national holiday is day off and all government institutes and offices will be closed.