New Zealand is a place of innumerable attractions and a rich culture. New Zealanders are famous for celebrating their every festival with equal joy and enthusiasm that will make you feel a part of their celebrations. Major popular festivals and holidays celebrated in the country can be listed as follows:
New Year’s Day: One of the first countries to celebrate the New Year’s eve every year due to the proximity of New Zealand to International Date Line, New Year’s Eve is a day of relaxation for most of the native people. With the day being a public holiday in whole of the country, people visit family and friends while many others choose to attend the horse racing carnivals and summer day fairs that take place during the day. Many vacationers find it an interesting change of pace as the day falls right in the midst of the summer holidays rather than the winter ones that they may be accustomed to in their respective countries. With all schools, offices, and private businesses closed during the day, many prefer to watch the cricket sporting events which are a popular game in the region. Also part of the New Year’s Eve is the day after the January 1, that is January 2nd that is also a public holiday throughout the country.
Waitangi Day: Commemorating the signing of the first founding document of New Zealand- the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Waitangi Day is a public holiday celebrated on February 6th every your throughout the country. Official celebrations at Waitangi include Maori cultural performances, naval salute and speeches from the Maori and European dignitaries. It is a day when people openly discuss and debate about the national issues like multiculturalism and national identity. Bubbling with lots of fun, music, dance and other fun ceremonies, the day allows an opportunity for you to see the cultural depth of the country through traditional performances and parades from Royal New Zealand Navy. When visiting the country on this day, do not miss to visit the two national icons located on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds- Ngatokimatawhaorua (one of the largest Maori war canoes that can seat a crew of 55 passengers and 80 paddlers) and Te Whare Runanga (a Maori meeting house commemorating the signing of the treaty).
Good Friday: Observed in April on the Friday falling before Easter Sunday, Good Friday is a statutory and a religious holiday throughout New Zealand. It is on this day Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified. The day marks the start of a four day weekend including the Easter Monday during which most of the churches hold special services and long prayer vigils. Many catholic churches consider the day to be a fast day when people eat small meals and no meat at all. For those less religious about the holiday, the time is best for short trips with friends and family to out of town picnics or visits. The day marks an important event in the Christian religious calendar as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the central beliefs of this faith.
Easter Monday: Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Easter Monday marks the end of four day weekend that starts with Good Friday. Since all schools, offices and business houses are closed on this day, people relax at their homes or those enjoying the weekend with their families return back to the town. Families in the spirit of Easter fun take part in Easter egg hunts and other related festivities. There are special Easter Monday services organized by the churches. Chocolate Eggs are the most in demand item for the day.
Anzac Day: Observed throughout the country on April 25, Anzac Day commemorates the landing of New Zealand and Australian Army Corps at Gallipoli, Turkey in 1915 during World War I. Also observed in Australia, the day marks a sign of remembrance for all those New Zealand soldiers who served their country during the wars and conflicts. Parades, commemorative services and dawn services are held throughout the country with people laying wreaths on the graves of those New Zealanders who died and fought for the country. Returned service personnel march wearing their medals along with cadets, defence forces and youth organizations on the Anzac Day march. Many even travel to attend the special commemorative service held at Gallipoli in Turkey on this day.
Queen’s Birthday: Celebrated on the first Monday of June every year, New Zealand celebrates the Queen’s birthday with equal zest and festivity as any other holiday. As the country forms a part of the Constitutional Monarchy of United Kingdom, the Queen is said to be the head of the state. The day also marks the official opening of the ski season with the day being a part of a long weekend. It is also the day when the Queen’s Honours list is released to the public featuring and honouring hundreds of people recognized for their services to public, television, prisoner welfare and several other fields. However, even though there is a ceremonial Governor General appointed by the Queen to the country, the day to day running of the country comes under the domain of the prime minister with the governor general playing just a symbolic role.
Labour Day: This annual public holiday falling on the 4th Monday of October marks a day off for the labours while also commemorating their struggle for a fair 8 hour working day. The day marks a day of relaxation so that they can enjoy the long weekend with their families and have some time off. While many choose to go on short trips out of town with friends and families, many participate in the special street parades and protest marches that are held on this day to voice out the importance of worker rights. First celebrated by New Zealand on October 28, 1890, the day was shifted to fourth Monday of October in 1910 and has remained on this day since then.
Christmas Day: A Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the day is a popular holiday throughout the country when people share presents with friends and families to wish each other Merry Christmas. Churches hold special Christmas church services for the religious. Special family meals are prepared consisting of roast vegetables, Christmas ham, roast turkey and homemade gravy. Quite different from the typical snowy Christmases experienced in the western world, is summer time here in New Zealand making the beaches and pools a popular haunt for the families on this day.
Boxing Day: Celebrated on the day after Christmas, Boxing Day is a public holiday falling on December 26 every year. The day marks a time of relaxation for everyone and enjoy time with friends and families as it’s the time for the annual summer break of the schools. Locals travel abroad to enjoy some time off till New Year’s Eve after which the regular routine life takes over. Celebrated traditionally as the day when the employers used to give bonuses or any other types of gifts to their employees in a box, the tradition of the day was brought over when the country came under the umbrella of Commonwealth of United Kingdom.