Waitangi Day is celebrated annually on February 6 to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document. This day is recognized as a public holiday in New Zealand, unless the date falls on a weekend, in which case the Monday that immediately follows becomes a public holiday. Ceremonies take place at Waitangi and all around the country to commemorate the signing of the treaty.
History of Waitangi Day
Waitangi Day is New Zealand’s national day, which means the New Zealanders get a much-needed day off from work! Though this is a public holiday according to the country’s laws, it is also a time to reflect on the controversy that surrounded the Treaty of Waitangi and its effects on the current society.
On February 6, 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed by the representatives of the British Crown and more than 40 Māori chiefs. Five hundred Māori chiefs joined in to sign copies of the treaty by September 1840, which were sent around New Zealand.
The Treaty of Waitangi outlines the principles to which Māori chiefs and British officials made a political agreement to form a nation-state and establish a government. Because of significant differences between the Māori and English language versions of the Treaty, there has been much conflict over the treaty in terms of land possession and has since been a subject of contention.
Waitangi Day was officially celebrated in 1934 and in 1957, it was proposed as a public holiday by the New Zealand Labour Party in their party manifesto. Later in 1973, legislation was passed to recognize this date as a nationwide public holiday. However, renaming the date as New Zealand Day drew criticism as it seemed to diminish ‘Te Tiriti’. In 1976, the Waitangi Day Act restored the former name and declared it a public holiday.
Today, Waitangi Day is celebrated throughout New Zealand every year on February 6. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the document was first signed is a great place to learn about the Treaty of Waitangi any time of the year.
Waitangi Day timeline
Governor-General Lord Bledisloe gifts the Treaty House and grounds at Waitangi to the nation.
Up to 10,000 Māori attend the 1934 celebrations.
New Zealand marks the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Prime Minister Helen Clark makes a statement: “It is my strong belief that the days and events around Waitangi Day should contribute to the building of a sense of New Zealand identity and purpose.”
Waitangi Day FAQs
How do they celebrate Waitangi Day in New Zealand?
When Waitangi day rolls around, public celebrations include Māori ceremonies, sporting events, music, and parades.
What languages are spoken in New Zealand?
English, te reo Māori Samoan, Northern Chinese (including Mandarin), and Hindi are most commonly spoken in the country.
What is a hongi?
A hongi is a traditional form of greeting in New Zealand, in which two people press their noses to each other and inhale one another’s breath.
How to Observe Waitangi Day
Celebrate with New Zealanders
Official Waitangi celebrations take place on the Waitangi Treaty ground and involve mostly positive celebrations with several events and speeches from government officials, though it is also the location for protests. Join in on the celebrations if you happen to be in New Zealand during that time or celebrate by sharing information with your friends on social media using the #Waitangiday hashtag.
Read about the history
This day carries a rich history along with it, starting from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi to the events that followed the signing. You can spend today learning about how this day evolved as years passed, and about the celebrations and controversies surrounding it.
Experience the Māori culture
Immerse yourself in Māori culture. Visit any restaurants that serve traditional Māori food and experience the unique flavors. If you have apprehensions about trying new foods, you can learn about traditional Māori dance and watch kapa haka performances online.
5 Cool Facts About New Zealand
Waitangi Day’s name changed many times
The name of this day has alternated between Waitangi Day and New Zealand Day a few times.
The last to be inhabited by humans
The country was inhabited by the first humans only 800 years ago and it was the Māori who arrived first.
Three official languages
Māori is an official language in New Zealand along with English and New Zealand sign language.
New Zealand has won more Olympic gold medals per capita than any other country.
Most animals were not natives
Bats are the only native land mammals in the country, all the others were introduced by Māoris and Europeans.
Why Waitangi Day is Important
It celebrates New Zealand’s history
Every year on February 6, New Zealand celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. It’s a reminder of the long history surrounding the signing of the document that led to the creation of this day. It also sheds light on the controversy that followed the signing and the effect it had on society.
It’s a national day
It is also a celebration of the rich Māori culture. While most people indulge themselves in the celebrations, some use this day to protest.
It highlights Māori Culture
On this day, New Zealanders come together to celebrate with activities inspired by Māori culture. These include traditional Mori food, kapa haka performances, and tree planting to commemorate the coming together of people.
Waitangi Day dates