Waitangi Day – New Zealand

February 6


New Zealand’s national holiday celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on this day (February 6) in 1840.

The word ‘celebrate’ is disputed though. The treaty was the original agreement between representatives of the British Crown and the Maori chieftains, and its signing is considered the birth of New Zealand. However, to many Maori—the indigenous descendants who make up about a sixth of New Zealand’s population—the Treaty represents the country’s ‘original sin’.

The problem with the Treaty of Waitangi stems from discrepancies between the English and Maori translations (translated by a well-meaning but less-than-fluent English missionary in a single night) so the chieftains and the British never precisely agreed on the same stipulations. The New Zealand government solved this dilemma by, when in doubt, not honoring the Maori version. This didn’t sit well with the Maori, whose protests against the loss of their lands fell on deaf ears for over a century.

Once heralded as a symbol of victory for indigenous rights, the Treaty has become the cornerstone of a growing awareness of social injustices committed against the Maori, who protest each Waitangi Day.

But as Tariana Turia, co-leader of the Maori Party, said:

“It’s critically important that people understand that the Treaty is not about settlement, it’s not about grievance. The Treaty was a document of unity, and all of us should understand it.” – New Zealand Herald

Marae, Waitangi, © 2009 Alison MacCallum

And if there’s one thing that unifies the New Zealand people, it’s that nobody outside New Zealand understands them. Here are some “Kiwi-isms” to help you better communicate with these fun-loving but linguistically-challenged people:

A into G: arse into gear (to get going)

Box of birds: cheerful, very good

Carked it: kicked the bucket

Cellotape: scotch tape

Cotton buds: Q-tips

Dag: an amusing character

Dunny: toilet

Eketahuna: the NZ “Timbuktu”

Fanny: you don’t need to know, just never say “fanny pack”. It’s called a”bum-bag.”

Guts for garters: in big trouble

Ice block: popsicle

Judder bar: speed bump

Kia ora: “hello” in Maori

Money for jam: easy money

Off yer face: intoxicated

Pavlova: tasty dessert named for a Russian ballerina who visited NZ (though Australians try to claim it)

Rattle your dags: hurry up

Throw a wobbly: become angry

Your shout: your turn to buy drinks

More at the official NZ-to-English Dictionary

Oh, and Waitangi is the name of the river that was the site of the Treaty’s signing. It means “noisy” or “weeping river”.

Boxing Day

December 26

St. Stephen

“In London and other places, St. Stephen’s Day, or the 26th of December, is familiarly known as Boxing-day, from its being the occasion on which those annual guerdons known as Christmas-boxes are solicited and collected…

The Book of Days

As a child I thought it odd that the British, so seemingly refined (compared to us their American cousins), would dedicate the day after Christmas to such a brutal and pugilistic sport. Yet there it was on the calendar: “Boxing Day – UK”.

Apparently the holiday has very little to do with the sport, but everything to do with gift-giving. And no, it’s not about boxing up all the gifts you don’t want so you can return them to the store either.

According to The Book of Days (1882)…

“The institution of Christmas-boxes is evidently akin to that of New-year’s gifts, and, like it, has descended to us from the times of the ancient Romans, who, at the season of the Saturnalia, practised universally the custom of giving and receiving presents. The fathers of the church denounced, on the ground of its pagan origin, the observance of such a usage by the Christians; but their anathemas had little practical effect, and in process of time, the custom of Christmas-boxes and New-year’s gifts, like others adopted from the heathen, attained the position of a universally recognised institution. The church herself has even got the credit of originating the practice of Christmas-boxes…

“…Christmas-boxes are still regularly expected by the postman, the lamplighter, the dustman, and generally by all those functionaries who render services to the public at large, without receiving payment therefor from any particular individual. There is also a very general custom at the Christmas season, of masters presenting their clerks, apprentices, and other employes, with little gifts, either in money or kind.

“St. Stephen’s Day, or the 26th of December, being the customary day for the claimants of Christmas-boxes going their rounds, it has received popularly the designation of Boxing-day.”

Boxing-night was a night of much joy and revelry. The Book of Days goes on to tell us that “the theatres are almost universally crowded to the ceiling on Boxing-night” as the pockets of the working class are stuffed with recently received year-end bonuses.

You can also find some packed pubs and bars on Boxing Day, as celebrants, having spent 24-48 hours with family, join their friends to bid a fond farewell to the Christmas season, if not the Christmas spirit.

[Of course , Boxing Day is actually only the second day of the twelve days of Christmas, so the season doesn’t technically end until Epiphany on January 6.]


April 25

Last month the nation of Turkey remembered Victory of Canakkale, the World War I campaign that unified the Turkish spirt and brought together disparate elements that would form the Turkish nation.

But for every victor there’s the vanquished.

The Allies of World War I, including the French, British, Indian, Australian and New Zealanders, suffered a quarter million casualties in the Dardanelles (Canakkale) campaign. At the forefront of the battle, the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand took a disproportional brunt of the death and disease that characterized the fight.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC Day falls on the anniversary of the landing of the first Australian and New Zealand troops on April 25, 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula on Turkey’s Aegean coast. The assault was ill-planned and inadequately supplied.

The Turks entrenched themselves on the high ground pouring artillery and machine gun fire down upon the hapless Australian, New Zealand, Irish, French and British troops below.The battleground soon resembled that of the Western Front – both sides peering at each other from fortified trenches, forced to spill their precious blood in futile frontal attacks on well defended positions. — eyewitnesstohistory.com/gallipoli.htm

In the aftermath of Gallipoli a rift widened between the two southern hemisphere countries and the British Empire they had been proud to be a part of. Resentment grew against Allied commanders for the ill-conceived attack that led Australians and New Zealanders like lambs to the slaughter, and for the motives involved in using Australian and New Zealand troops to invade the far-off lands.

About 40 per cent of all Australian males aged between 18 and 45 voluntarily enlisted to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), that is about 417,000 men, of whom about 60 000 died in all campaigns and another 160,000 were wounded or maimed. — Geoffrey Partington, Gallipoli – the Facts Behind the Myths

[Still, Partington clarifies, “the British, French and Indian causalities were far greater than those of the Anzacs,” and “the British bore the brunt of the fighting – and the losses.”]

ANZAC Day is one of the most important holidays in both Australia and New Zealand, observed as Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.

“On Anzac Day, we remember not only the original Anzacs who died on April 25, 1915, but every one of our service men and women who have served and died in all wars, conflicts, peacekeeping, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions,” — Australia Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston

For the record, Victory of Canakkale is no celebration in Turkey. It’s also known as “Martyrs’ Day”. The Turks suffered even more casualties than the Allies, around 300,000, in the brutal Dardanelles campaign alone. Today, the monuments and memorials of Gallipoli serve as a grim reminder that in war even the winners pay the price.

ANZAC Memorial, Sydney. Photo by Matthew Lammers