WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6: “New Zealand Day” shows up on various American holiday calendars, indicating that it is a patriotic celebration of New Zealand’s founding in 1840. Actually, the celebration is more properly called Waitangi Day and has grown in significance over the past century. The date often is marked by political protests by some of New Zealand’s native Maori peoples.
This is a politically charged occasion, each year, when New Zealand recalls the tension between national unity and respect for cultural diversity—and historic injustices toward native peoples. While some ponder that tension; many New Zealanders simply enjoy the national holiday.
The New Zealand Herald reports: Waitangi Day commemorates the day, back in 1840, when representatives of the British Crown signed New Zealand’s founding document with more than 500 Maori chiefs. The first Waitangi Day was in 1934, but it wasn’t until 1974 that New Zealanders were given the day off to mark the occasion. Historically, it was seen as a date when Maori and Pakeha (people of European descent) came together as “one people.”
While occasional protests are reported, many Maoris enjoy this annual showcase of their culture. This year, a cultural center in Palmerston North, New Zealand, plans to set a world’s record for the most people playing a traditional Maori stick game called Ti Rakau. (A local newspaper reports on plans for the event.)
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.