22 Apr 2020

New Zealanders may be in lockdown in the battle to beat COVID-19 but they can still mark Anzac Day at home.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel is encouraging residents to commemorate all those lost in wars and honour the many people who have served their country – and continue to do so as New Zealand faces new challenges.

“Despite being in isolation, we can still mark Anzac Day in our own way, as I will also do on Saturday,” the Mayor says.

“More than ever, it is a time for unity – even from our own ‘bubbles’ – as we take the time to reflect and show our deep respect for all the sacrifices of the past – and the present.”

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of New Zealand and Australian soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 in World War I. It is the first time since 1916 that New Zealanders cannot all gather across the country to remember the day.

New Zealand also faced a new threat at the end of the First World War, with the 1918-19 influenza pandemic killing 462 people from a community of about 92,000 in Christchurch. It rapidly spread across the region as people gathered to celebrate the armistice marking the end of the Great War, and Show Week.

“Our collective response to our latest fight symbolises the true Anzac spirit, underlining the importance of this special day to all New Zealanders,” the Mayor says. “Standing separately, we can honour in unison all those Kiwis who have given up so much to help make our country safe.”

Christchurch Memorial Returned and Services Association (RSA) President Jim Lilley says that even though public services are unable to go ahead, “it does not mean that the tradition of remembering and commemorating our veterans and service personnel should be cancelled too”.

“Anzac Day now promotes a sense of unity, perhaps more effectively than any other day on the national calendar,” he says.

“The Christchurch Memorial RSA would like you to join us to remember those who have given their lives for our country.

“This is a time to pay respect and acknowledge the many thousands of our military people who are serving or have served, who are called upon to support New Zealand in times of war, conflict and disasters.”

While people cannot lay a wreath or wear grandparents’ medals in a parade, there are still many ways to mark the day.

Everyone can still remember in silence at 6am on Saturday by joining the New Zealand Defence Force and RSA campaign #StandAtDawn, which acknowledges being “apart, but together as one”, before listening to the official dawn service on Radio NZ National.

People can also join the Transitional Cathedral citizens’ service online at 10am, while TVNZ 1 will host an Anzac Day special at 11am.

With no poppies on sale this year, people are being encouraged to decorate their letterboxes and, if possible, to go online and buy a virtual poppy for their profile.

The RSA site also includes Anzac-themed crafts and activities for the whole family.

Anyone can lay a virtual poppy at Auckland Museum’s online cenotaph, acknowledging one of the more than 235,000 service men and women named on the site.

People can also delve into the New Zealand History site and resources to learn more about the wartime experiences and the impact on those overseas and at home. For younger family members, check out two New Zealand stories online – The Red Poppy and Lest We Forget – at RNZ Storytime.