Diwali – The Festival of Lights

Do you wish to extend your appetite beyond your usual Indian takeaway order? Perhaps you are intrigued by the rhythmic dance moves which so often feature in Bollywood movies? Or maybe you need to learn some basic Hindi for a friend’s wedding in Mumbai? This week marks the celebration of Diwali. Here at Christchurch City Libraries we have many resources on offer to help you learn more about this auspicious occasion and displays and crafts on at libraries.


Diwali or dīpāvali, the festival of lights, is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs with the rising of the new moon at the end of the month, Ashvin. However, in a country as diverse as India, where people from many different faiths live side by side, the festival is not limited to one particular faith for it represents the victory of light over darkness and the triumph of wisdom over ignorance. Throughout cities and villages the darkness will be symbolically turned back. Clay lamps (diya) will be lit in homes and shops, fireworks will be released into the sky and the streets will be filled with music.

As a result of the Indian diaspora, the festival is now celebrated worldwide. The first Indians to settle in Christchurch arrived in the 1850s with Sir John Cracroft Wilson (though it is possible that Indians working on whaling ships may have visited the region at an earlier date). Although the number of migrants started to grow in the first half of the twentieth century, Diwali celebrations in Christchurch initially remained limited to small community and family events.

In recent years the Indian Social and Cultural Club (ISCC) has been responsible for bringing Diwali to the wider Christchurch community with their Diwali – Indian Festival of Lights event. The first public celebration was held in 2010 at Victoria Square. Since then the festival has been held at Horncastle Arena. Sponsored by Singapore Airlines, it has grown in size and variety. This year’s event is on Saturday 22 October, from 3 to 9pm.


For many, a highlight of the Christchurch event are the dance performances. Various local groups, from university student dance clubs to dance companies, whose performances range from traditional to Bollywood fusion, take part. Many of these groups spend months preparing their routines for the event.

Another draw card is the variety of food available. Tired of tikka masala? Then try street stall food such as pav bhaji and aloo chaat. Sweets are also an important part of Diwali. Make an effort to track down gulab jamun (dumplings soaked in a sugary rose water syrup), or barfi (sweetened milk mixed with pistachios and left to set).

While at the festival you will hear many different languages being spoken. In fact, there are 122 major languages and 1599 minor languages to be found in India. However, Christchurch City Libraries can prepare you for this challenge. All Christchurch City Libraries users are free to use Mango Languages to learn a range of Indian languages including Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

Diwali Festival 2015
Diwali Festival, Horncastle Arena, 24 October 2015. Flickr Diwali-2015-IMG_0873.jpg

Christchurch City Libraries has prepared a list of selected titles, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as a selection of movies and audio CDs, which can offer an introduction to the vibrant cultures of India.

  • Find resources about Diwali in our collection
  • Read about Diwali in the World Book Reference Centre
  • View Diwali photos in our Flickr collection.


Matariki hunga nui 

This whakataukī can be translated as

Matariki has many admirers.

Matariki brochure
Download our Matariki brochure 2.7MB PDF

Māori New Year is here. We have come to the time of the year again when the constellation of stars known as Matariki reappears in our pre-dawn winter sky.  The rising of Matariki this year is on Piripi/June 28th.

Matariki refers to the small yet distinctive constellation of stars and the name itself is often translated as meaning “tiny eyes”, or “the eyes of God”.

This constellation of stars is celebrated and admired throughout the world and is called many different things: Subaru (Japan), Pleiades (Greece), Seven Sisters (Indigenous Peoples of the Americas), Mataliki (Tongan) and Mataali’i (Samoan) to name a few.

Matariki is celebrated and recognised in Christchurch City Libraries in many ways: special Matariki Wā Kōrero (Storytimes) are held, and community art activities, educational seminars and displays highlighting libraries’ resources are featured in all libraries.

This year , Christchurch City Libraries are focusing on Te Taiao ( the environment) and Rongoā Māori (traditional medicines). Visit your local library to learn about native plants and trees, their Te Reo Māori name and some traditional and contemporary uses of these plants.

The tukutuku panels which feature on our Matariki brochures this year demonstrate traditional and contemporary use of plant material for art, whakapapa and wānanga.  Find more information on this tukutuku project.
Matariki at the library

Matariki is all about:

  Whakapapa, Whānau,

Kai and Hākari,

Wānanga, Te Reo Māori

and Whakawhanaungatanga.

Get some culture

Culture Galore 2010It’s time to immerse yourself in some culture at Culture Galore! Part of the Garden City Summer Times it’s held at Ray Blank Park, Maidstone Road, Ilam on Saturday 10 March 12 – 4pm. Come celebrate all the many cultures within our garden city. Enjoy performances of native dancing with beautiful costumes and savour the delicious flavours of exotic countries.

Christchurch City Libraries will have a stall as will other informative groups. So come along and say Hi!

It’s a great day out for the whole family with entertainment to keep kids happy.

And if you want more culture, think Library. If you read Chinese, we have resources in Chinese language and you can read 17 Chinese newspapers for free with your library card and PIN number through Press Display. Find out about our World Languages collection or search our BiblioCommons catalogue for items in other languages.

All the fun of the fair

Grand Parade, A&P Show“Mum, can we pleeeeeease go to the Show?” my ten year old pleaded, batting her big eyes.

What could I say? Getting up at the crack of dawn to pack a bag with sunblock, polar fleeces, loose change and ham sandwiches and drive across paddocks to join the throng is part of our family culture. The Canterbury Agriculture and Pastoral Association has held a Show Day every year since 1862 and there is no way we’d let a few (thousand) earthquakes get in the way of it this year. Of course we’ll go!

We’ll get there early to beat the crowds. My ten year old’s looking forward to candyfloss and the Ferris wheel, while my teen wants to meet up with friends and look around the market stalls.

I’m taking a sunhat and a deckchair so I can watch the equestrian events in comfort with a nice glass of chardonnay in one hand and a whitebait fritter in the other. And I’m going to visit the Christchurch City Libraries’ stall in the Christchurch City Council tent to record my earthquake story and pick up a free bookmark.

Special days, special memories, don’t you reckon?

The Declaration of Independence

New Zealand flag 1834
Flag chosen in March 1834 by 25 chiefs

February 6, Waitangi Day 2011  is the day that representatives of the British Crown and Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, Northland. The Treaty formed the foundation of a new nation and saw New Zealand become part of the British Empire.

Part of the lead-up to the signing of the Treaty was a document that was circulated and signed five years prior. That document was called the Declaration of Independence and was commissioned by James Busby (who was appointed by the British Government to his position in order to protect British trade interests) in reaction to activity from other countries on New Zealand shores, notably France and America. It was at this time that Maori chose the British to negotiate with – in response to French brutality – as a way of managing the newcomers and ensuring that they to behave according to tikanga.

The Declaration maintained that full sovereign power was with rangatira (chiefs). It was signed at Waitangi with northern rangatira and this was later extended to southern rangatira. The Declaration was made an official document in 1846 and outlines the legislative authority request of the rangatira which was also implicit in the Treaty.

For more information on the Declaration and the Treaty, a really helpful website to look at is Network Waitangi Otautahi. They are a non-profit organisation dedicated to education around the Treaty. You can also read the declaration in English and Maori on nzhistory.net.nz

Brush up on your NZ history skills and read what the library website has on Waitangi Day events.
Read our Waitangi Factsheet for a quick refresher of our National day.
See what is happening locally to celebrate Waitangi Day.
At your local library you will see more information and images  on display about Waitangi day.