New Zealand is a land in the far south where immigrant cultures were grafted onto a Polynesian landscape. This makes for a colourful culture replete with festivals of all kinds. There are festivals marking special days in the country’s colonial history, events that celebrate the indigenous Polynesian culture and still others that commemorate New Zealand’s rich agricultural traditions.
New Zealand celebrates its history on the last Monday in January with the Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta. This colourful, nautical event commemorates the arrival of Captain Hobson in New Zealand when he founded the city of Auckland.
The Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta dates back to 1840 which makes it the country’s oldest sporting event. Predating the Americas Cup by 11 years, the Auckland Anniversary Regatta draws around 400 competing boats each year.
New Zealand’s Polynesian roots are celebrated at the Pasifika Festival held at Auckland’s Western Springs Stadium in March. The event celebrates the art, culture and lifestyle of the South Pacific through music and other performances.
First produced by Auckland City Council in 1993, Pasifika has grown over the years and now attracts more than 225000 visitors who come to enjoy the work of hundreds of performers from the Auckland region as well as the Pacific area.
The event kicks off on a Friday night with an opening concert from Air New Zealand. The main event starts of the Saturday and comprises around 300 food and craft stalls.
A popular addition to Pasifika was made in 1999 in the form of cultural villages. These showcase unique aspects of various Pacific Island communities. Each village presents a traditional and contemporary programme including music, dancing, workshops, and food.
In 2008, Wellington introduced its own Pasifika featuring exhibitors from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue displaying traditional handicrafts such as embroidery, weaving, shell jewellery and wood carving.
Agriculture is at the heart of the New Zealand economy so it’s no wonder that one of the country’s most important festivals covers farming and rural life. It’s the Royal New Zealand Show held over three days each November. With the theme of ‘Bringing the country to town’, the Show is held at Canterbury Agricultural Park, Wigram Road, Christchurch.
Featuring both indoor and outdoor displays and exhibitions, the Royal New Zealand Show attracts well over 100,000 visitors each year. Displays include marquees and pavilions showcasing the very best of New Zealand farming and rural life, top entertainment, and numerous other attractions. The event draws 5000 livestock entries and more than 400 exhibitors.
The Royal New Zealand Show was first held in 1924. Formerly held in rotation with Palmerston North, Hawke’s Bay, Hamilton, Invercargill and Christchurch, the show has been held at the Canterbury Agricultural Park in Christchurch since 2006.
New Zealand is a fascinating country but attending a festival can give you special insights into this antipodean nation.
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