Waitangi Day in New Zealand

When is Waitangi Day in New Zealand?

Waitangi Day in New Zealand is on February 6, 2023. It falls on Monday.

How many days until Waitangi Day in New Zealand?

There are 67 Days left until Waitangi Day in New Zealand.

Is Waitangi Day a public holiday in New Zealand?

Waitangi Day is a statutory public holiday celebrated in New Zealand on the 6th of February every year. The holiday commemorates the day when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. This treaty is one of the important markers in the country’s history. It is declared within this document that the Māori (how the indigenous people in New Zealand are called) and the Pākehā (name for the non-Māori New Zealanders), along with their respective cultures, are protected. The Treaty of Waitangi serves as a guide for the relationship between the United Kingdom and the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Origin of Waitangi Day

In New Zealand, Waitangi Day is a holiday observed annually. The holiday’s roots can be traced back to February 6th, 1840. On this day, approximately 45 Northland Maori chiefs, together with several representatives from the United Kingdom, signed a treaty which gives the British sovereignty over the country. The agreement also demands the protection of rights of both the Māori (native New Zealanders) and the non-Māori (commonly known as Pakeha). Since the signing took place at Waitangi, Bay of Islands in New Zealand, the event was dubbed as the Treaty of Waitangi.

Initially, only 45 Northland Maori chiefs signed the treaty, then in the following months, many other Maori chiefs attached their signatures on the document as copies of the treaty were toured all over the country. Before the end of 1840, approximately 500 additional Maori chiefs signed the agreement.

When did Waitangi Day become a public holiday?

According to records, Waitangi Day was first celebrated on February 6, 1934. Although, its first observance dates back to that year, it was only in 1974 when the day officially become a public holiday in New Zealand. Since then, the country has been celebrating Waitangi Day annually.

Waitangi Day Traditions and Activities in New Zealand

New Zealand, like other countries, has its own share of unique customs and traditions. During Waitangi Day, many of these traditions are seen in the country.

Māori Cultural Performance

One of the observances held on the country’s Waitangi Day is the Maori cultural performance. These performances highlight several activities. The wero which means ‘to cast a spear’, is a traditional Māori challenge, and is one of these activities. Wero is an activity done before the guests can enter the marae (Māori meeting house). In this activity, the Maori warriors wield weapons and lay down a challenge towards the guests; an act done to test the visitor’s/guest’s intentions and ensure that they come in peace. This is usually followed by a pōwhiri. A pōwhiri is a ceremonial welcome held at the marae (meeting grounds). The ceremony is observed with speeches coming from both the Maori (native New Zealanders) and the Pakeha (non-Maori) dignitaries. To end this ceremony, a hongi is typically done between the guests and the Maori hosts. A ‘hongi’ is a traditional Maori greeting wherein people press their noses together. Once the pōwhiri is over, a kai which is a traditional Māori cuisine is also shared among the people.

Besides wero and pōwhiri, the Māori cultural performance also offers other entertainment on Waitangi Day. The performance include the waiata (meaning songs), the haka (a ceremonial Māori dance typically performed in a group), and the poi (a traditional dance often performed by Maori women using the poi - Maori word for ball on a string).

Raising of the Flags

It has been a customary practice in New Zealand to raise their flags at dawn for the celebration of Waitangi Day. The people responsible for this activity are members of the Royal New Zealand Navy. The flags raised include the New Zealand Flag, the Union Flag (national flag of UK), and the White Ensign (sometimes called St George’s Ensign). These flags are raised at the Waitangi flagstaff, the location where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed. After the conclusion of holiday’s celebration, these flags are lowered down by the navy in a traditional ceremony.

Awards and Citizenship Ceremony

A special citizenship ceremony is oftentimes observed in New Zealand during the holiday’s celebration. This ceremony is typically held at the Government House in Auckland, where attendees would take an oath and pledge of loyalty towards the country. The attendees may come from different parts of New Zealand since this is a special citizenship ceremony organized just for this day. Aside from this, awards are also held on Waitangi Day. Since 2014, the Board of the New Zealand Society of Authors has been announcing the Waitangi Day Literary Honours award on the same day of the holiday’s observance. This prestigious award is only given to one or very few New Zealand writers, which is why it has become one of the highlights of the day’s celebration.

Other Common Activities

Since Waitangi Day is centered on the Maori customs, some localities across New Zealand also take advantage of the day by organizing events which give focus on the importance of the Maori culture. The public is encouraged to attend these events in order to have a firsthand experience on the Maori culture, which is considered as the central point of New Zealand's identity. In addition, enjoying the day at the beach is also typical on this day. Waitangi Day is observed in February and is during the country’s summer months (December – February). Therefore, this is the reason why many people are also seen spending the holiday at the beaches, together with their families and friends.

Dates of Observance for Waitangi Day
Year Date Day Holiday
2023 February 06 Monday Waitangi Day
2024 February 06 Tuesday Waitangi Day
2025 February 06 Thursday Waitangi Day
2026 February 06 Friday Waitangi Day
2027 February 08 Monday Waitangi Day
2028 February 07 Monday Waitangi Day
Upcoming New Zealand Holidays
Holiday Date
Christmas Day December 25, 2022
Boxing Day December 26, 2022
New Year's Day January 01, 2023