New Zealand has a new public holiday – Matariki. Matariki is the Maori name for the constellation of stars also known as the Pleiades/the Seven Sisters/Messier 45. When it rises in the north-eastern skies in late May/early June , it signals to Maori that the New Year will begin. It was a very important time to Maori, as they knew that it was the precursor to Spring in a few months’ time. It also signified the coldest part of winter was approaching, and was the time to ensure that everyone was okay and had enough food and shelter to survive it. Because everyone was confined much more to the indoors, it was also a time of storytelling and keeping the oral traditions alive.
Matariki will be a movable public holiday, similar to Easter, and the first one will be June 24 in 2022. How exactly the date for the public holiday is decided I don’t know yet, but it will always be a Monday or Friday. It is the first public holiday that is uniquely New Zealand, although Matariki itself has been celebrated for some years without a public holiday attached to it. All our other public holidays are shared occasions with other countries, and associated with our European heritage, rather than from Maori heritage.
This brings the New Zealand public holiday total to twelve days each year. Added to four weeks annual leave entitlement for employees, that gives over six weeks of holidays. It doesn’t affect me much because I work from home, and juggle my time and hours anyway, but sometimes I’ll take the day off on a public holiday.
The public holidays we now have are –
- New Year’s day
- The day after New Year’s day
- Waitangi Day – the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between Maori and the British Crown.
- Good Friday and Easter Monday
- ANZAC Day – Australia and New Zealand Army Corps; commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
- Queen’s Birthday – to celebrate the UK sovereign’s birthday, as NZ is part of the British Commonwealth, although this isn’t the Queen’s actual birthday.
- Matariki – Maori New Year
- Labour Day – commemorates the struggle for an eight hour working day
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
- Provincial day – each province has its own separate public holiday for this
How does this compare to the public holidays other countries have, and their annual leave entitlements? I don’t know if we have more or less than others do.