National Days

Australia Day and Waitangi Day

These two important holidays in our countries are more or less the Equivalent to Canada Day here, but with their own specific flair. Because both days are very close on the calendar, and that our club represents both countries, we celebrate them together at the Down Under Club of Winnipeg. Arguably, ANZAC Day could also be considered a day of national significance for both countries.

Australia Day

January 26th is Australia Day down under, and it comes at the height of summer and is accompanied with parades, much flag waving and other forms of national recognition throughout Australia. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Australia Day (previously known as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, and ANA Day) is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney CoveNew South Wales in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia (then known as New Holland).

Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818. It is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year Awards on Australia Day Eve, announcement of the Australia Day Honours list and addresses from the Governor-General and Prime Minister. It is an official public holiday in every state and territory of Australia, unless it falls on a weekend in which case the following Monday is a public holiday instead. With community festivals, concerts and citizenship ceremonies, the day is celebrated in large and small communities and cities around the nation. Australia Day has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia.

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Waitangi Day

The closest thing to a national day like Canada Day in New Zealand is a special day recognizing the signing of an important treaty between the white settlers and the Maori people who lived there before European contact. Falling on February 6th each year, this holiday sports the name of the treaty, rather than the country’s name. This is a nice, if understated, way to mark their national day. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Waitangi Day:

Waitangi Day (wye-tang-ee) commemorates a significant day in the history of New Zealand. It is a public holiday held each year on 6 February to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, on that date in 1840.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840, in a marquee erected in the grounds of James Busby’s house (now known as the Treaty house) at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. The Treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Māori rights to their land and gave Māori the rights of British subjects. There are differences between the English version and the Māori translation of the Treaty, and since 1840 this has led to debate over exactly what was agreed to at Waitangi. Māori have generally seen the Treaty as a sacred pact, while for many years Pākehā (the Māori word for New Zealanders of predominantly European ancestry) ignored it. By the early twentieth century, however, some Pākehā were beginning to see the Treaty as their nation’s founding document and a symbol of British humanitarianism. Unlike Māori, Pākehā have generally not seen the Treaty as a document with binding power over the country and its inhabitants. In 1877 Chief Justice James Prendergast declared it to be a ‘legal nullity’, a position it held until the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, when it regained significant legal standing.

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See also ANZAC Day

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