Travel Guide: Waitangi Day, Aotearoa/New Zealand.
You have probably heard of days like Independence Day, Bastille Day and Australia Day – celebrations of National Pride and history, but have you heard of Waitangi Day?
On the 6th of February each year, Waitangi Day is celebrated throughout New Zealand, as well as various cities around the globe where there is a large Kiwi community.
For those of you who are traveling around New Zealand in your camper van , you will get to see how important Waitangi Day is on the Kiwi calendar, alongside Christmas and New Years.
What is Waitangi Day about?
This special day celebrates the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by British colonialists and Maori chiefs. The treaty is considered New Zealand’s first founding document, making New Zealand part of the British Empire. Although debatable, the treaty guaranteed Maori people the same rights as their British counterparts, including rights to their land.
Please note: Waitangi Day is a day that needs to be treated with respect. Waitangi day is not only a day of celebration for the birth of a modern nation, but also a day that highlights the negative legacy of colonialism. The best way to participate is to get involved, show respect and genuine interest.
Traditional Ceremonies & Performances in Waitangi
At sunrise on the 6th of February, you can see official celebrations in Waitangi with the raising of the flag on the Treaty Grounds, followed by a church service and Maori kapa haka (song and dance) performances.
If you are here for this event, you will also get to see a re-enactment of the signing of the treaty. Beginning with the “governor” coming ashore from his ship, and an extraordinary presentation of waka (canoes) rowed by Maori men in traditional dress with traditional chants echoing in the winds.
On the grounds you can also see the impressively carved meeting-house, the world’s largest war canoe (carved with very intricate designs) and experience a traditional hangi feast. If you are looking for a truly original experience, making a special trip up to the Bay of Islands is well worth it.
Waitangi Day around New Zealand:
For those travelling in a camper van through other parts of the country at the time, there will generally be a lot of fun things to do, from community picnics and barbecues, to festivals and concerts.
There are also plenty of opportunities to experience Maori culture first hand, with many of the maraes (traditional Maori greeting houses) open up on this day for local communities and tourists to learn more about traditional Maori culture.
As the day approaches and you know where you will be parking the van, have a look online for activities and festivities going on nearby.
Here are a few we know of:
- Auckland – Family event at Bastion Point with live entertainment, kite flying and kai (Maori food) set against the stunning Waitemata Harbour.
- Wellington – Along the city’s waterfront lies Waitangi Park where all the action happens. Witness traditional Maori culture with a selection of activities, including a waka fleet exhibition, Te Aro Pā walking tours, traditional weaving, waka building, Maori myths, and Kapa Haka song and dance performances.
- Rotorua – Waitangi Day is also widely celebrated among the geothermal landscape of Rotorua in the traditional Maori township. The event held here is called ‘Whakanuia’ which means ‘acknowledging, promoting and celebrating’. You can be sure to find food, dancing, and lots of storytelling.
- Christchurch – Head on over to Okains Bay for the official commemorations of Waitangi Day. This bay is the spot where the Treaty was signed in the South Island, and where you’ll find family friendly activities, plus an insight into New Zealand’s past.
- One Love Festival – Waitangi Day happens to also coincide with Bob Marley’s birthday. Bob Marley has been a rather important and iconic figure with Kiwis for a few generations now. In honour of his memory and in celebration of Waitangi Day, everyone gets together at One Love Festival to share the love, celebrate peace and unity, and just listen to some good ol’ reggae beats while throwing back a couple of beers. You can stay onsite with your campervan for an additional fee or choose to stay at a nearby campground.
A couple of cool pics of Bob Marley in Aotearoa (New Zealand) attending a Maori Kapa Haka performance.
Written for Share A Camper
Cover Image: http://www.jetmag.co.nz/no-pressure-says-former-winner-as-kapa-haka-festival-kicks-off/