What are the Public Holidays in the Cook Islands?
Want to see how the Cook Islands celebrate special events? Or perhaps you don’t want your getaway to clash with a public holiday when some businesses are closed? Either way, we go through when the public holidays are and why they are celebrated in this guide to the public holidays in the Cook Islands.
Overview: Public Holidays in the Cook Islands
In short, the list of public holidays in the Cook Islands is as follows:
- January 1 – New Year’s Day
- January 2 – New Year Holiday
- Friday before Easter Sunday – Good Friday
- Monday after Easter Sunday – Easter Monday
- April 25 – ANZAC Day
- First Monday in June – The Sovereign’s Birthday
- First Friday of July – Ra o te Ui Ariki
- August 4 – Constitution Day
- October 26 – National Gospel Day
- December 25 – Christmas
- December 26 – Boxing Day
Note that if any public holiday dates fall on a weekend, the next Monday (and Tuesday in some cases) is considered a national public holiday too.
Official Public Holidays in the Cook Islands and Why They are Celebrated
The Cook Islands has a range of public holidays in order to commemorate historical, cultural and religious events. Some public holidays also relate to New Zealand’s public holidays, due to the island’s history with New Zealand but is now a self-governing state.
New Year’s Day and New Year Holiday
The Cook Islands celebrates the New Year much like many places around the world, counting down on December 31 until midnight on January 1. A more traditional way for Cook Islanders to celebrate is with rangokere, which involves giving of food baskets, family picnics, singing, dancing and, of course, feasting. Note that if New Year’s Day and/or the New Year Holiday falls on a weekend, the holiday will be observed on the next Monday (and Tuesday, if applicable) as well. See how to experience this public holiday for yourself with our Cook Islands New Year Ideas.
Good Friday and Easter Monday
Easter is a religious holiday, celebrated in the Cook Islands due to most of the population being Christian. Dates for Easter Sunday are changeable from year to year and are determined by being the first Sunday after the paschal full moon. Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday and Easter Monday is the Monday after Easter Sunday. Learn more in The Guide to Easter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
A public holiday on April 25, also celebrated in New Zealand and Australia, ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It is a remembrance day for those who have fought and died in world conflicts, including Cook Islanders. A dawn memorial service is held at the cenotaph in Avarua on this day.
The Sovereign’s Birthday
Also celebrated as a public holiday in New Zealand, The Sovereign’s Birthday (first Monday of June) is celebrated because the Cook Islands is part of the Realm of New Zealand whose head of state is “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of New Zealand”.
Ra o te Ui Ariki (Ariki Day)
Ra o te Ui Ariki means “Day of the Council of High Chiefs”. The public holiday on the first Friday of July celebrates the traditional aspect of the Cook Islands legislative body. Although the Cook Islands has a modern democratic system, Ariki are more of a figurehead who serve to advise the elected government.
Constitution Day (and Te Maeva Nui)
The Cook Islands’ most patriotic holiday commemorates the day the Cook Islands gained their independence and authority over their own Constitution in 1965. How do Cook Islanders celebrate? Te Maeva Nui is a week-long event leading up to Constitution Day full of cultural festivities. See the snippet below for more details.
National Gospel Day
October 26 was the day in 1821 when the first Christian missionary, John Williams, brought Christianity to the Cook Islands. Many Cook Islanders are deeply religious to this day. Of course, the celebration of Gospel Day is focused at local churches, but there are also Gospel Day pageants, reenactments about the coming of the Gospel to the Cook Islands, fireworks and more. Learn more about the Cook Islands’ connection with religion in The Guide to the Religions in the Cook Islands.
Christmas and Boxing Day
An important Christian holiday, Christmas is celebrated in the Cook Islands on December 25 and Boxing Day on December 26. Learn more about Christmas in our guide, How to Spend Christmas in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Island Gospel Days
Although there is a National Gospel Day (see above), each of the islands also celebrates its own Gospel Day. Aitutaki was the first island to be converted to Christianity in 1821, which is used for the national public holiday, while other islands came later. Island Gospel Days are as follow:
- March 13 – Penrhyn Gospel Day
- May 25 – Palmerston Gospel Day
- June 15 – Mangaia Gospel Day
- July 20 – Atiu Gospel Day
- July 21 – Mitiaro Gospel Day
- July 25 – Rarotonga Gospel Day
- August 8 – Manihiki Gospel Day
- August 15 – Rakahanga Gospel Day
- October 27 – Aitutaki Gospel Day
- December 8 – Pukapuka Gospel Day
Other Events in the Cook Islands
Public holidays aren’t the only thing to look forward to in the Cook Islands. The island nation also has a lively events calendar. We go into detail in The Top Events & Festivals in the Cook Islands. Otherwise, here’s a quick overview of the top events.
Te Mira Ura – Dancer of the Year
One of the biggest cultural events of the year, Te Mira Ura – Dancer of the Year, held in April, is a lively event where competitors dance their way in true Polynesian gusto to become “Dancer of the Year”. There are three age groups and the final event is held in the National Auditorium on Rarotonga.
Te Maeva Nui
Te Maeva Nui is a week-long cultural marathon of arts, crafts, music, song, dance and local food. It celebrates the Cook Islands culture on the lead up to Constitution Day, August 4, which was when the Cook Islands became an independent nation in 1965. The main events of Te Maeva Nui are, unsurprisingly, the dance competitions concluding with the finals at the National Auditorium on Rarotonga.
Round Rarotonga Road Race
Just one example of the many sporting events that take place in the Cook Islands, Round Rarotonga Road Race is a run that anyone can join (as long as you register). The annual event that occurs in September includes the main race, which is a 31km run around the stunning coastal road of Rarotonga, as well as a 5km fun run, a relay, cross-island run and more.
Te Mire Flower Festival
Finally, another one of the top cultural events of the year, Te Mire Tiare Flower Festival in December is a must-see. The colourful festival where shops, schools and government buildings are decorated with flowers can’t help but put a smile on your face. The focal point of the event is the annual pageant starting with an event at Punanga Nui Market, Rarotonga, and ending with a float parade where the Maine Tiare and Tama Aito are crowned.
See more of the top events in the 10 Biggest Festivals in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
More About Public Holidays in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide to the national public holidays in the Cook Islands. Learn more about important dates and national events in the following guides:
- 10 Biggest Festivals in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- The Top Events in the Cook Islands
- A Traveller’s Guide to the Cook Islands Culture
Finally, plan more of your Cook Islands’ visit using our whopping 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.