Easter is one of the most widely celebrated holiday seasons across New Zealand.
|2020||10 Apr||Fri||Good Friday|
|13 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
|2021||2 Apr||Fri||Good Friday|
|5 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
According to Christian tradition, Easter Sunday is the holiest day of the liturgical year. It marks the climax of Holy Week, which runs from the Triumphal Entry to the Resurrection. It also marks the commencement of the seven-week period that culminates in the Ascension and the Day of Pentecost.
For Catholics, and some Protestants as well, Easter is also the end of the period known as “Lent,” wherein certain foods and activities are restrained from as a sort of “sacrificial reminder” of the holy events of the season.
In New Zealand, the population is a medley of cultures and religious traditions. There are Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, followers of Judaism, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. With only 50% calling themselves “Christian” on the 2013 Census and around a third considering themselves “non-religious,” there is also a large secular segment of the population.
The 19th Century saw a major wave of immigrants to New Zealand and an integration of cultures such that even non-Christians began celebrating Easter, though not as a Christian holiday. For many, it has become simply a vacation time to be spent with family, and its symbols are as much chocolate eggs and bunnies as the cross and empty tomb.
Nonetheless, there remains a more religious segment of New Zealand society that does still partake in church activities each Easter season. These include special sermons and Scripture readings, prayers and hymn-singing, passion plays, night vigils, and more.
In New Zealand, Easter comes during the Autumn since the islands lie in the southern hemisphere. New Zealand Aprils are a time of falling leaves, shorter days and fading gardens, but New Zealanders nonetheless send each other cards and emails with images of spring and new life on them.
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are national holidays on which it is illegal to operate most businesses, a remnant from the land’s more Christian past.
Easter Activities and Events
Some of the main Easter activities in New Zealand include the following:
- Massive purchasing of chocolate eggs and candy
- Socialising with friends and family, including special dinners
- Taking a long-awaited vacation to other parts of the country
- Baking, buying, and consuming hot cross buns, particularly at a family breakfast on Easter Morning
- Making and hunting for Easter eggs
- Attending Easter plays, which are still advertised in local newspapers
As to specific events, we can mention five of the more unique or famous ones with ongoing annual occurrences:
- The Cromwell Great Easter Bunny Hunt: Hundreds of hunters, fully armed, assemble on the hills of this southern New Zealand town each year to hunt for rabbits. The event rids the area of “pests,” brings in money for charities, and provides the chance for some interesting recreation. There are sometimes dozens of teams, and the winning team can win thousands of dollars in prize money.
- Whittaker’s Big Egg Hunt: This relatively new event supports the charity known as “Starship.” It features gigantic Easter eggs, some as big as a man, which are designed by leading Kiwi artists and celebrities. The huge eggs are then hidden in major towns like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, to be searched for by children on Easter Monday.
- The Streets Easter Show: This show has been running for about 160 years and has gained a special association with the Easter season in the minds of many New Zealanders. It includes carnival rides, circus acts, live entertainment, and numerous exhibits. There are also prizes for the best livestock and more “agricultural” elements involved. There are also competitive art displays and massive marketplaces to explore. The Streets Easter Show is open to the public with free admission, and it goes on for several days.
- Warbirds Over Wanaka: Every other Easter, over the town of Wanaka, the largest warbird airshow in the southern hemisphere takes place. The crowds watch the skilled pilots maneuver their planes and enjoy additional entertainment and concessions below. Though, in itself, an airshow has little to do with Easter, it has become a true Easter time tradition to many Kiwis.
- The Hastings Highland Games: Each year, in Hastings, NZ, Easter takes on a rather Scottish appearance. Bagpipe bands begin to play, highland-style dances are engaged in, and lesser-known Scottish traditions like caber tossing, hurling, and haggis are beheld by the gathered crowds.