On 12 November 1918, New Zealanders celebrated the news that an armistice had been signed between the Allies and Germany the previous day. But this did not mark the official end of the war; the terms of peace had not yet been signed. Almost immediately, communities began to plan elaborate peace celebrations that would mark the war’s official end in a manner befitting the sacrifices made.
The 1919 peace celebrations in New Zealand were complicated by two factors. The first was a worsening coal shortage that affected transport and electricity supplies. Because of the uncertainty surrounding rail services, the government gave more responsibility to local bodies to organise their own peace celebrations. The coal shortage even curtailed illuminations in centres that relied on coal-fired electricity generation.
The second factor was confusion over the timing and form of the imperial peace celebrations. New Zealand’s preparations were well advanced when the British government changed its plans after the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919. The New Zealand government agreed to follow the new British plan – a day of thanksgiving on 6 July and peace celebrations on 19 July – but many communities had already planned events that would run over three days. In the end New Zealand celebrated peace with the rest of the Empire on the 6th and the 19th (Soldiers' Day). But it also held a second day of thanksgiving on the 20th and a Children's Day on the 21st.