|dc.description.abstract||Every year on 25 April New Zealanders commemorate Anzac Day. The day is set aside to remember the nation's war dead. This thesis examines the observance of Anzac Day from 1946 to 1990 and argues that as New Zealand's most important day of commemoration it unlocks the changing social and cultural system of which it was a part.
The thesis primarily examines Anzac Day historically although an anthropological 'examination is also undertaken by deconstructing Anzac Day 1955. This deconstruction reveals not one but two rituals. The public ritual expressed sorrow and pride. It was provided with meaning by the public mythology of war. On the other hand, the ritual of ex-service personnel was primarily concerned with a renewal of their wartime culture and provided meaning by shared experiences of the reality of war. The two rituals were thus opposed although they continually overlapped during the day and shared its central axiom - remembrance. Anzac Day also expressed a national mythology of New Zealand as a harmonious and egalitarian nation. A close reading of the day's observance, however, discloses the limitations of that mythology and the reality of social and cultural divisions.
The proximity of the Second World War losses made Anzac Day 1946 a holy day. The passage of time ameliorated the nation's grief so that by the late 1950s Anzac Day was just a holiday for many New Zealanders. This development led to the statutory introduction of the half-day observance in 1966. During the late 1960s and early 1970s Anzac Day became the centre of controversy as anti-Vietnam War protesters challenged the meaning of the day. This same generation and their children returned to Anzac Day services during the 1980s and in the process revived the day. Anzac Day now provided an opportunity for New Zealanders to commemorate their new sense of national identity and their feelings about war and peace. By 1990, Anzac Day was a holiday for New Zealanders but it also continued to be their most important national day - "the one day of the year".
Anzac Day is also important to the historian because it provides a reading of the New Zealand way of life and how it has changed since the Second World War. The changing observance of Anzac Day from a holy day to a holiday between 1946 and 1990 revealed the wider secularisation of New Zealand society. This thesis further concludes that Anzac Day does not provide evidence for the existence of a New Zealand civil religion. New Zealanders also became less militaristic and war less central to their sense of national identity. They also became less imperialistic and more overtly nationalist in an independent and indigenous sense. Anzac Day expressed these changes. The day's observance also reflected changes in social relations (between men and women, Maori and Pakeha, Protestant and Catholic) and particularly the declining numbers and influence of ex-service personnel. Above all, this study of Anzac Day provides an insight into how New Zealanders slowly emerged from the shadow of war.||en_NZ