As a Brit I’ve never celebrated Waitangi Day; why would I? However this year I was invited to celebrate with a group of New Zealanders (and a token Aussie) so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Waitangi Day 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.
Every year in London thousands of Kiwi’s take to the streets of central London and hold what is basically an annual street party. People dress up and at 4pm everyone gathers in Parliament square for the Haka.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I arrived at 9am for the pre breakfast at a friend’s house. I was kitted out in my costume – we were all going as the incompetent father figure from the New Zealand movie ‘Boy’ (I’d never heard of it either!) – and given the instructions for the day.
We arrived at the designated start point of Notting Hill Gate and you were lucky to find a standing place on the street – it was manic! We made our way on from there, through Kensington and Knightsbridge and eventually winding up at Westminster for the Haka, making it in time by the skin of our teeth.
Thankfully the rain (and snow!) held off all day and we all made it back in one piece.
If you’ve never done a Waitangi day before here are my tips to survival:
1) Wear comfortable shoes – my feet still haven’t recovered
2) Take as few personal belongings as possible – you don’t want to lose anything
3) Wear a costume – it’s so much more fun and it’s easier to spot your friends when you lose them
4) Be prepared to queue for the toilet – London really needs more facilities!
Waitangi Day was definitely an experience I won’t forget in a hurry and I would recommend everyone taking part at least once. As for me, I’m already planning for next year – anyone got any costume ideas?