Waitangi Day is held to mark the signing of the country’s founding document as a national holiday every February 6 across New Zealand.
The Waitangi Treaty was signed in 1840 at the home of James Busby at Waitangi. To mark this important day in the nation’s calendar, schools and most businesses are closed.
The day the treaty was agreed is considered the founding day of New Zealand, although it was not commemorated until 1934 and then later became a public holiday in 1954.
The Waitangi Treaty was signed by Māori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown and was three pronged in that it gave the Māori people the same rights as the British; it recognised Māori ownership of their lands and some other properties; and it established a British Governor of New Zealand. The day is a focus on the coming together of the British and Maori peoples.
There are special events in cities across the country that the public can attend to enjoy the day with others. Events range from holding debates, concerts, re-enactments, food festivals and so forth, but if you would prefer to mark the day more simply with family and friends, here are some things you might enjoy.
Visit a Museum
If you are local enough, take a trip to where it all started. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds holds events throughout the year to enable visitors to immerse themselves in a cultural experience celebrating the founding of the nation, held in this beautiful setting overlooking the Bay of Islands. Or perhaps arrange a vacation to the area with family if you are able to, what a wonderful place to visit with grandchildren.
Celebrate New Zealand cuisine
The hāngi was the most widely used method of cooking by Māori for more than 2,000 years. Now saved mainly for special occasions, foods cooked in a hāngi include chicken, pork and mutton, as well as various vegetables. One of the best places to enjoy this cultural feast is Rotorua, in the central North Island – perhaps you could even book yourself in for a Maori cultural experience. You might also get to savour a delicious hāngī-steamed pudding for dessert.
Enjoy a beach
With more than 14,000 kilometres of coastline, giving us access to so much fantastic seafood, why not spend some of your day feeling thankful for our glorious beaches and get some fresh sea air while you take a stroll.
Do something for the environment
As an island nation, we are all aware of the threat to our planet, whether it is concerns about freshwater pollution through the prevalence of farming, or increased air pollution in our cities, not to mention the frightening effects of climate change and the recent Australian bushfires. This Waitangi Day, take time to think about any small changes you could make to do your bit for our beautiful county and planet, be that limiting use of un- recyclable plastics, conserving water, or even just collecting litter whilst out for a walk.
Did you know?
…that on the other side of the world, the New Zealand Society (a group of expatriates living in the United Kingdom) holds a Waitangi Day Charity Ball in London that features New Zealand wines and a themed dinner menu. In previous years, there has even been a rather lively group of New Zealanders celebrating the event in London with a 27-pub crawl on the London Underground’s Circle Line, finishing with a haka dance in Parliament Square.