• The Knackered Truth

Things We Love About New Zealand: Celebrations


Me sporting my jersey, “American by birth. New Zealand by the grace of God”

I’m continuing my love for New Zealand to talk about celebrations. Obviously, every country and even every whanau (family) has their own traditions, but here are just a few surprises we’ve come to love about living down here. The list I had was turning into a mega post, so I’ve cut it down quite a bit. I’d love to hear in the comments below some celebrations/traditions you especially love.


Father’s Day is not celebrated in June. For some reason, down here it’s in September. Mother’s Day is always in May, and always on the same day as in America. But we often forget because we haven’t been exposed to the commercial aspect of it. We don’t watch much network television, so I’m not sure if leading up to the big day there are television ads promoting gifts to buy or not. When entering a store, I might see one poster about it but that’s it. It’s definitely not as big of a deal down here as it is in the USA.

The other thing we’ve had to adjust to is our birthdates. Depending on the time of year, the East Coast is 16 hours behind New Zealand. So while it’s 11pm on a Monday, it’s actually 3pm on a Tuesday for us. That means, if your birthday is on the 5th in America, it’s going to be celebrated a day earlier in America (which would be the 5th in New Zealand). Due to our connections back home, this results in a two-day birthday celebration! Our friends might honor us on the day down here, but for our loved ones back home (and Facebookers), we get an extra day of accolades. It’s a tad confusing for us too, because we’re not sure if we should honor the actual date since we were born in America or if we should just celebrate on the date of the country we’re in. Either way, two days of birthday fun is definitely a tradition I can get used to.

I’ve become fond of the end of May and beginning of June, a time when New Zealand celebrates Matariki, or Māori New Year. It’s when the constellation of stars known as Pleiades is most visible in the night sky. There are lots of events to participate in throughout the country.

Wellington holds a fantastic Diwali festival, too, where we can binge eat authentic Indian cuisine, watch professional Indian dancers, and finish it out with a fireworks display.

Waitangi Day is celebrated the 6th February, and as with every holiday, if it falls on a weekend, it’s observed the following Monday. It’s the anniversary of the signing of the treaty in 1840 between the British Crown and Maori chiefs. Learn more here.

Every big city in New Zealand also gets an anniversary day; I think Wellington’s is in January. But again, you get that day off from work. There’s also ANZAC day in April, The Queen’s birthday in June that everyone gets off from work, and all major holidays, of course.

One tradition I lack understanding of falls from November 2 until the 5th, called Guy Fawkes Day. Fireworks, otherwise banned, are for sale for the week. It reminds me of the Fourth of July in America with full fireworks displays and fun events in Wellington. My reluctance to embrace this tradition is mostly because houses in Welly are stacked right next to each other, often on top or directly behind the other, so when people blast off their fireworks it’s a bit loud and a huge fire hazard. But it’s a big celebration for Kiwi’s.

I’m always eager to learn more about Māori traditions, at least more than just the haka, but admit I’m not exposed as much to it. British tradition seems rather predominant, at least in the community where I live. I’m pleased they teach Māori language (te reo) as early as preschool.

Our lives have improved meeting people from all over the world. My son’s first playgroup had children from Africa, Asia, and Europe in it. I think growing up in America I lived in a bit of a bubble. America itself so big, I knew other countries were out there but there’s a certain type of denial I had (up until my college years, anyway) that made me think we all lived the same, held the same beliefs, and celebrated the same. Living abroad has helped me embrace that we’re all actually very different, but more importantly, that different should be honored. I think I used to try to conform to the same mold as everyone else, and living here has allowed me to truly appreciate the process of being human. Each culture, each individual, even the rather negative experiences, can enhance life for the better.


What would you like to add?

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