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What is Anzac Day?

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The New Zealand Day of Remembrance

On the lead up to April 25, you may start noticing the appearance of white crosses and red poppies in some communities, as well as seeing the phrase: “Lest we forget.” This is all leading up to the ceremonies of the public holiday in New Zealand, Anzac Day. But what is Anzac Day?

April 25 marks the remembrance day for all New Zealanders and Australians killed at war. On the day, ceremonies will take place across New Zealand following a particular ritual in the form of a military funeral. Some stores and services may be closed during Anzac Day, as it is viewed as a public holiday.

The date of Anzac Day is the anniversary of when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (The Anzacs), landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in their first gruelling campaign of World War One. The “Spirit of Anzac” is evident across New Zealand in the form of war memorials with the names of the fallen engraved on the memorial. These memorials are where Anzac Day events occur.

Fast Facts About Anzac Day

  • Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the Gallipoli Peninsula landings on 25-April-1915
  • Around 18,000 New Zealand soldiers died because of World War One
  • 11,928 New Zealanders died in action in World War Two
  • April 25 was officially named Anzac Day in 1916
  • Services are held at dawn because during the world wars it was the best time to attack
  • The poppy used as a remembrance symbol comes from Canadian John McCrae’s World War One poem “In Flanders Fields”.

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The Gallipoli Campaign

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the Gallipoli Peninsula landings on 25-April-1915.

Thousands of men arrived on the beaches of what is now Turkey. For eight months, New Zealand troops fought with Australian, British, Irish, French, Indian and Canadian soldiers (Allied Forces)against the Ottoman Empire who were part of the Central Powers. By the end of the campaign on 20-December-1915 more than 87,000 Ottoman soldiers and 44,000 Allied soldiers died, including 2779 New Zealanders.

An exhibition at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington is a great place to learn more about Gallipoli.

New Zealand Defence Force on Wikipedia© New Zealand Defence Force on Wikipedia

The Anzac Day Ceremony

The traditional Anzac Day events follow the same ritual every year with two ceremonies, one at dawn and another later in the morning called the Anzac Parade. Today, you may just see one of the two ceremonies in some communities.

Even if you don’t get the chance to attend an event, you can still watch live broadcasts on New Zealand TV.

Dawn Service

This typically begins with a march from the military personnel to the local war memorial before dawn. The rest of the community joins. Although the public can attend the ceremony, this dawn service tends to be more intimate. From this point, the ceremony has a prayer, hymns and a dedication speech.

The ‘Last Post’, played with a trumpet, is then played followed by a minute’s silence. This 1-minute silence is to reflect and remember the fallen soldiers. When the minute is up, there will be a quick address, another hymn and conclude with the national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand”.

The Anzac Parade

Later that morning, the Anzac Parade tends to be attended more by the public. The ceremony begins much like the dawn service with the marching to the war memorial with banners and flags.

The public lay down wreaths and poppies. A public commemoration begins, usually with a few speeches.

One of the biggest ceremonies occurs at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the Auckland Domain.

New Zealand Defence Force on Wikipedia© New Zealand Defence Force on Wikipedia

Anzac Day Public Holiday

April 25 marks a day off for a lot of workers in New Zealand.

If it falls on a weekday and you usually work on a weekday, then you will get that day off work. If Anzac Day falls on a weekend, then weekday workers will get the following Monday off work.

Read more about the different public holidays in Public Holidays in New Zealand.

Read More on New Zealand Holidays

Part of learning about the New Zealand culture is by looking at the national public holidays and events. Take a look at these articles.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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