Happy New Zealand Day 2018: New Zealand Day, also known as Waitangi Day is the one observed commemorating the most significant day in the country’s history; the day when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed for the first time. It was on the 6th February, 1840 when the treaty was signed.
The day was officially declared as a national holiday in 1974, bur unless the day falls on Saturday or Sunday, it is a public holiday. The official festivities and celebratory events take place at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the bay of Islands, Northland.
The major traditional activities include Maori cultural performances, speeches from the European dignitaries; Maori and Pakeha, a naval salute, etc. the world’s largest Maori ceremonial war canoe (Waka), Ngatokimatawhaorua, also takes place on the Waitangi Treaty Ground every year.
At the time of 170th celebration of the Waitangi/New Zealand Day, the 70-year-old Waka was renovated and re-launched in 2010.
Happy New Zealand Day 2018
The Treaty of Waitangi was signed for the first time on the 6th of February, 1840. It was at the pavilion in the grounds of John Busby’s house as Waitangi (now known as the Treaty House), where the signing of the treaty took place wherein the British Crown representatives with near about 45 Maori Chiefs were present.
In order to give a chance to the other Chiefs to sign the treaty, its copies were taken around the country, which took seven months for the whole process.
Maori is an Eastern Polynesian language, also known as Te Reo and has its origin in New Zealand itself, spoken by the Maori people living here since 1350 AD. The language is one of the country’s official ones since 1987 and closely related to Cooks Islands, Tuamotuan and Tahitian.
The continent gained the name ‘New Zealand’ from a Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman, who had arrived here in 1642. In 1769, Captain James Cook observed the Maori and claimed it as a British Colony when he had stayed in New Zealand for seven months.
Issues between Europeans and Maorians:
As more Europeans began settling there, many problems came up. The British Government, in 1833 appointed a person named James Busby to take a stand on the issues that took place and he set up a residence at Waiting.
During his tenure of Six years, his role as an inter-mediator between the British and Maori was a significant one. The British Government had appointed him as a civilian and so he had no power of arrest.
The Treaty of Waiting was in Maori and English, which handed over the British the authority of governing New Zealand. This let the British to purchase the land and establish their empire over there in order to rule it. In turn, the British had to guarantee the safety of the Maori tribal.
Celebrations in the old times:
The celebrations before 1934, that took place on account of the founding of New Zealand used to be held on 29th January. This was the date when William Hobson, the Lieutenant Governor sent by the British Government for colonizing the country, had arrived at the Bay of Islands in order to declare New Zealand as the British colonized province.
In 1932, Governor-General, Lord Bledisloe with his wife had purchased James Busby’s house, the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed for the first time. As the property wasn’t used by anyone since a long time, there was a need to renovate it and so, Lord Bledisloe got it renovated and declared it as a public property.
This declaration was made on 6th February, 1934. This occasion was the first ever Waitangi Day. The next event took place in 1940, which was the 100th anniversary of the treaty signing.
Transformations in the celebrations:
The commemoration of signing of the treaty began in the year 1947 when the Royal New Zealand Navy ceremony took place at the Waitangi grounds at the centre of which a flagpole was erected by the Navy. No Maori was seen taking part in this ceremony, but in the ceremony that took place the next year, a Maori speaker was added for the first time.
Some more additions were seen made in the further years’ events. Some Maori cultural programs were allowed to be the part of the Waitangi Day events since 1950s. The Governor-General started attending the events from 1952, whereas the Prime Minister started attending it from 1958.
Current trends for celebrating Waitangi Day:
Some of the customs followed in the old times are still followed even now for the Waitangi Day celebrations which include, a Naval Salute, the cultural performances by the Maori which usually take place in welcoming of the ceremony, speeches from the Mari and Pakeha dignitaries.
The celebrations at Waitangi are seen starting on the day before the actual one (5th February), every year. On this day, the significant political people are welcomed at the Ngapuhi Te Tii marae. Marae is a Ploynesian sacred place which serves religious and social purposes in the Polynesian society.
Here at the marae, speeches delivered by the local Iwi (largest social units in New Zealand Maori society) are held. At the first light of the Waitangi Day, the New Zealand Flag, the Union Flag and White Ensign are raised at the Treaty Grounds by the New Zealand Navy. Church services and cultural displays like dance and songs are the usual events during the Waitangi Day.
The Treaty signing event is re-enacted by some Waka and navy people to commemorate those moments, significant in the New Zealand history. The celebrations close-off by lowering the flags by the Navy, for which a traditional ceremony is held.
In some localities of New Zealand, the people are educated of the Maori culture. No parades are taken out, fireworks are burst and people just do not celebrate this day as they do it for other festive occasions.
As the New Zealand Day/Waitangi Day falls in the summers of New Zealand, people prefer visiting beaches and spending the whole time over there. This is one of the most important cultures of New Zealand, followed by everyone.