February 6, 2012 - Waitangi Day

-- New Zealand

Ah, a nice mid-summer day to celebrate with music and dance!

Did I say mid-summer? On February 6? Yes!

New Zealand, along with the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, is enjoying its summer while most of humanity living north of the equator is experiencing winter.

At dawn in a place called Waitangi, flags are raised on the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. Typically, there is a special church service, and shows of song and dance. Several waka (Maori canoes) and a navy ship re-enact the calling ashore of Governor Hobson to sign the treaty. At dusk the flags are lowered in a traditional ceremony.

This is the flag of
the Maori group
that wants a separate,
independent Maori
In between flag up and flag down, lots of New Zealanders take advantage of the holiday to go to the beach. Some people attend protests because there is a lot of controversy about just what the Treaty of Waitangi said—the Maori version and the English version of the treaty differ!—and what it means today. Even the name of the holiday stirs some controversy: some people have suggested (and even declared and decreed) that the holiday name be changed to New Zealand Day.

Speaking of New Zealand...

Peter Jackson's new movie, The Hobbit, is set in the fantastic landscapes of New Zealand (just as his Lord of the Rings trilogy was). Hobbiton has been built so that it can last and can be a tourist destination, and it looks really charming!  Here is an image gallery, and here and here are videos. 

For more about New Zealand and the Maori people, check out this and this other earlier posts.

Also on this date:

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