Waitangi Day is held every 6 February to celebrate the signing of the Waitangi Treaty in 1840 at the home of James Busby at Waitangi.
The Waitangi Treaty was signed by Māori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown and was three pronged in that it gave the Māori people the same rights as the British; it recognised Māori ownership of their lands and some other properties; and it established a British Governor of New Zealand.
The day the treaty was signed is considered the founding day of New Zealand, although the day was not commemorated until around 1934. It didn’t become a public holiday until after 1954. Since then the name changed to New Zealand Day for a period then, in 1976, its name changed back to Waitangi Day.
Although the day is one of celebration of unity between the British and Māori, many protests have occurred over the years on Waitangi Day, generally over treaty injustices.
On this public holiday, formal events are held at Waitangi, with re-enactments of the day of signing and of politicians and Māori discussing and debating issues of the day.
In some places around New Zealand, other re-enactments are done as a form of education to younger people of all heritages. Festivals and concerts dominate some centres, and the remaining people tend to soak up the summer weather along the many beaches of New Zealand.
Unusually, on the other side of the world, the New Zealand Society (a group of expatriates living in the United Kingdom) holds the Waitangi Day Charity Ball in London that features New Zealand wines and a themed dinner menu. And some expatriate New Zealanders in London do a 27-pub crawl on the Circle Line finishing with a haka dance in Parliament Square.