Kōrero: Holidays

Typically New Zealanders take most of their holidays (‘vacations’ in other countries) in the summer month of January. This follows on conveniently from the Christmas and New Year break.

He kōrero nā Nancy Swarbrick
Te āhua nui: Holidaymakers frolic in the sea at Piha beach, Boxing Day 2009

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British settlers introduced customary holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The Bank Holidays Act 1873 was the first holidays legislation in New Zealand, ruling that banks should shut on those days, as well as on Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and the sovereign’s birthday. Further public holidays were added over the following century and a half.

The Annual Holidays Act 1944 gave all employees the right to two weeks’ paid holiday. This was raised to three weeks in 1974 and four in 2007.

Summer holidays

From the 19th century many New Zealanders took holidays on the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. By the 1920s this was common.

There were usually summer holidays for children until late January or early February. As the amount of paid annual leave for workers was extended, adults began to take holidays in January as well.

Getting away

More people started to own motor cars in the 1920s, gaining the freedom to travel greater distances and to more isolated places.

The Railways Department tried to compete, using advertising campaigns to persuade people to go by rail for family holidays. However, the car was soon the preferred means of travel.


The seaside holiday was a British ritual, and from the 19th century many Pākehā New Zealanders headed to the beach during summer.

From the 1880s thermal areas were popular as health resorts. In the 1920s and 1930s, railways advertising encouraged New Zealanders to also visit lakes, bush areas and mountains. Tramping became increasingly popular from the 1940s.

Holiday accommodation

The most common form of accommodation for travellers in the 19th century was the hotel. Camping holidays became more popular in the 1920s. In the 1950s car ownership boomed and many people bought caravans. Another 1950s development was the motel, popular with family groups.

A favourite form of accommodation was the bach (known in Otago and Southland as a crib and in South Canterbury as a hut). This was a modest holiday home, sometimes in a remote area, often built without a permit, from cheap or salvaged materials.

Overseas holidays

Before the Second World War, all overseas travel was by boat, and only wealthy New Zealanders could afford international holidays.

From the 1940s air travel expanded. The most revolutionary change was the introduction of large jet aircraft on international routes from the 1960s. As the 1970s progressed, faster travel, more services to choose from and cheaper fares encouraged increasing numbers of New Zealanders to travel overseas.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Holidays', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/holidays (accessed 24 July 2024)

He kōrero nā Nancy Swarbrick, i tāngia i te 5 o Hepetema 2013