Story: Holidays

Page 1. Holidays in New Zealand

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In New Zealand the word ‘holiday’ has the same meaning as ‘vacation’ in other countries. It describes a break from work or study, often, but not always, involving a trip away from home.

A small world

While for many people holidays meant travelling away from home, not everyone can afford this. In 2012 a Wellington newspaper revealed that many children and young people from the poorer parts of Lower Hutt and Porirua had not even visited Wellington city, a mere 20 kilometres away, on a family outing.

Holiday entitlements

In 2013 New Zealanders in a full-time paid job were entitled to four weeks’ leave (20 days) annually, in addition to up to 11 public holidays. These were Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, 2 January, Waitangi Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, Queen’s Birthday, Labour Day, and the local provincial holiday. Until 2013 Waitangi Day and Anzac Day were not ‘Mondayised’, so if they fell on a weekend, there was no additional day off. In 2013 a bill was passed Mondayising these holidays in future. From 2022 a ‘Fridayised’ holiday in early winter marked the Māori new year, commonly known as Matariki.

Self-employed people, the retired and those in unpaid work were not covered by holiday legislation, so could take as many or as few holidays as their circumstances permitted.

Holiday seasons

Summer is the main holiday season in New Zealand as it is elsewhere, and many New Zealanders traditionally take or start their summer holiday in the period between Christmas and New Year. For people with school-age children, holidays are often planned to fit in with school terms.

Winter holidays in the mountains or at sunny Australian or Pacific destinations became more popular by the early 2000s.

International comparisons

In 2013 compared with other countries New Zealanders enjoyed a moderate number of holidays, similar to Australia, and more than North America and many Asian countries. However, Kiwis lagged well behind Brazil and European countries such as Germany, France and Spain, where 30 days’ paid annual leave was allowed.

No holiday from housework

When gender roles were more strictly defined the annual family holiday was not much of a break for many women. They still had to cook, do washing and look after children, often in the more primitive conditions of a bach (holiday home) or campground. In the 2000s these tasks were more likely to be shared by other family members.

Work-life balance

The catch cry ‘work-life balance’ emphasises the importance of holidays as a way of relaxing, overcoming stress and spending time with family and friends. However, for many people, particularly families where both parents are in paid employment, organising holidays or fitting in with other people’s holidays can be a source of stress. Since the 1970s some workplaces have provided special programmes of fun activities for children during school holidays, so that both parents can continue to work.

How to cite this page:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Holidays - Holidays in New Zealand', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 30 November 2023)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 5 Sep 2013