Celebrations, Holidays




Visitors to the Cook Islands may be able to time their stay to coincide with some of the festivals and events which usually occur around the same time every year. The following list is merely a guide. There is no guarantee that all the features listed will take place, nor that the exact dates will be adhered to:


Tiare Week Festival
Flower and floral competitions,        Miss Tiare November 8 to November 13 (Noema)


Start of Millennium 'Turou' Celebrations  December 1 (Titema)

Maui - Musical production  December 3  (Titema)

'Turou' Farewelling Celebrations  December 31 (Titema)

'Turou' Welcoming Celebrations January 1 (Tianuare)

Beach horse racing January 1 (Tianuare)

Cross Country Championship, Rarotonga February 15  (Peperuare)

Rugby International Sevens Tournament, Rarotonga February 25-27   (Peperuare)

Easter - Traditional Outrigger Racing, Aitutaki April 7-10 (Aperlra)

Dancer of the Year Competition
Eliminations, heats and finals April 17-28  (Aperlra)

ANZAC Day service
National Rarotonga Tin Man Triathlon
Olympic Torch Relay - Cook Islands Leg April 24, 25 (Aperlra)

Coconut Festival - Rarotonga
Demonstrations, exhibitions, cocktails, relay May 17-22 (Me)

Queen's Birthday Holiday
Kumete Sports
Local village sports competition, Rarotonga June 5 (Tiunu)

National Song Quest, Rarotonga July 13, 20, 27  (Tiurai )

Olympic Day Run, Rarotonga July 21  (Tiurai )

Gospel Day
Celebration of the arrival of Christianity, Rarotonga July 23 (Tiurai )

Maire Maeva Nui Festival, Rarotonga
Constitution Celebrations
Inter-island cultural July 28-August 6  (Tiurai - 'Aukute )

Zone Sports - Tumutevarovaro, Rarotonga
Manea, Southern Group
Purapura, Northern Group
Rarotonga, Mauke, Penrhyn August 6  ('Aukute )

Open Lawn Bowls Tournament, Rarotonga August 6 ( 'Aukute )

Miss Cook Islands Pageant, Rarotonga September 2 (Tepetema)

Half Marathon, Rarotonga September 9 ( Tepetema)

National Golf Open and Masters Tournament, Rarotonga September 16-23 ( Tepetema)

Polynesian Music Festival, Rarotonga October 2-7 ('Okotopa)

Round Rarotonga Road Race
Open to international runners October 7 ('Okotopa)

Cook Islands National Athletic Championships Rarotonga October 9-14  ('Okotopa)

Music Festival, Rarotonga October 9-14 ('Okotopa)

Beer Festival, Rarotonga October 15-16 ('Okotopa)
Open Squash Championship, Rarotonga October 20-25('Okotopa)

Gospel Day
Known as the Nuku, this is religious drama in the open air. Islanders act out biblical stories. Not to be missed! October 26  ('Okotopa)

International Tivaevae    Festival, Rarotonga
Traditional, modern and international quiltmaking October 21 to November 3 ('Okotopa)

Turama, All Souls Day 2009.11.06  (Noema)

Tiare Week Festival
Flower and floral competitions, Miss Tiare
Mangaia and Rarotonga November 6 to November 11 (Noema)

PPSEAWA International Conference, Rarotonga November 6-18  (Noema)

Local Stage Production, Rarotonga December 1 (Titema)

SDA Regional Youth Conference, Rarotonga December 15-22  (Titema)



Cook Islands Tiare Festival

The Tiare festival is an annual event on the island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands with cultural events, floral decoration, parades and competitions. Flowers are a central part of the culture of the Cook Islands and are used in almost every celebration. The islands have a huge array of flowers in almost every shape and color you can imagine. They are used to decorate shops, homes and public buildings and are considered most beautiful when worn in the hair and as a garland. It is customary for visitors to these beautiful islands to be presented with flowers, often a hibiscus or gardenia. Each November the Tiare Festival celebrates the beauty of the flowers of the Cook Islands. Everyone takes part, overnight business premises and public buildings are festooned with flowers and homes are filled with the scent of gardenias. The festival highlights include; flower arranging competitions, parades of floats adorned with flowers, the Miss Tiare beauty pageant and lots of other competitions including the best decorated government building.

The festival is named Tiare from the maori name for a flower or flowering plant and is commonly used to refer to the gardenia; the national flower. Any visitor to the Cook Islands falls in love with the flowers, the white gardenia with its fabulous scent, and the spectacular flame-red native hibiscus are perhaps the most striking. The Tiare Festival is a wonderful and enchanting time to visit the islands and experience the floral beauty of this magnificent part of the world.



Te Maeva Nui Festival Cook Islands

The most important annual event in the Cook Islands is the Te Maeva Nui Festival, which celebrates self-rule and independence from New Zealand in a blaze of traditional displays and competitions held on the island of Rarotonga.
The festival is an ideal way to experience the full impact of Cook Islands culture. Over a ten-day period, from the end of July into the first week of August, there are numerous events on the island of Rarotonga; new dances, drumming and singing displays and competitions, a colourful float parade, as well as numerous sporting, historical and arts events. The National Auditorium in Rarotonga is the main venue for drumming, dancing and singing events with other activities taking place all over the island.

The Te Maeva Nui Festival was formally called the Constitution Celebrations, but in 2001 it was renamed to better reflect the joy and pride in this event of independence. The Maori name Te Maeva Nui means "the greatest or the most important celebration." In this cultural festival there is also a large visual arts, sporting and culinary element with contemporary and traditional exhibitions, traditional and modern sports competitions, coconut husking, a Maori food festival and a fire knife competition. The float parade through the town of Avarua marks the opening of the celebrations and gives visitors the opportunity to participate with the islanders in celebrating their most important festival of the year. The atmosphere is festive and all around there is colour, movement and celebration. The islanders know how to express their joy and throughout the Te Maeva Nui Festival this becomes self-evident. There is no other festival that encompasses all the aspects of Cook Islands culture like the Te Maeva Nui Festival.


Cook Islands Vaka Eiva Festival

The Vaka Eiva Festival of Canoeing was started by Cook Islands Canoeing Association in 2004 and is hosted on the picturesque island of Rarotonga. This exciting annual festival celebrates the South Pacific heritage of canoeing with races and a host of other activities. The Vaka Eiva does not just offer an exciting and memorable sporting event for spectators, but also a time to see the traditional culture of the Cook Islands and other nations on display. On the first day of the festival there is a welcome by village leaders, dancing and singing performances and a blessing of all the canoes taking part and on the last day of competition each country attending the festival is obliged to present a brief cultural show for the participants and spectators.




Cook Islands Gospel Days
A celebration with plays, singing, dancing and music.


Travel to the Cook Islands may coincide with one of the Cook Islands Gospel Days, giving the visitor a chance to experience a pageant (nuku) of plays with a Christian theme, but with a strong traditional Cook Island flavour. In the Cook Islands the arrival of Christianity is celebrated on many of the islands with Gospel Days celebrations, which include re-enactments of the arrival of the first Christians and re-telling of bible stories. These elaborate outdoor "plays" are often wonderfully entertaining and original, sometimes melodramatic and funny, and occasionally experimental, but all performances have a distinct island flavour and are a memorable experience.

Gospel day pageants are performed by groups from the different CICC (Cook Islands Christian Church) churches who gather to compete against one another in a highly competitive, but good-natured competition. A great deal of effort is spent creating fabulous and interesting costumes, sets, props and scripts in preparation for Gospel Day. Many of the islands in the Cook Island group celebrate individual Gospel Days. They are usually public holidays for that island and the islanders approach the day with a festive and excited holiday air.

by: Philippa Rowlands



Rugby International Sevens Tournament, Rarotonga


The annual international rugby sevens tournament began in Rarotonga in 1991 although there had been an event featuring overseas players in 1989.Over the years we've had some rugby greats taking part including New Zealand's Eric Rush and Jonah Lomu as well as Fiji's Waisale Serevi.The new organisers (Destination Management Cook Islands) have been making a push to expand on the fun side of the tournament. They've been encouraging people to get together to dress up in weird clothes and crazy hats, with cash prizes on offer.Well, they certainly had a hit on their hands this year. The weather was fine from Thursday, when the team march through town took place, until the end of play on Saturday evening, in spite of forecasts promising showers.

We had two overseas teams from NZ, the Bombay Hawks and Te Ara Wheke, as well as several overseas sevens players including Koiatu Koiatu, Zar Lawrance, Renee Ranger, Nathan Robinson and Rangi Vallance. With 12 men's teams in four pools of three, and four women's teams there was plenty of action on the field and the spectators also had a ball.Sevens can be monotonous if one side outclasses the opposition but on Friday and Saturday there was end to end action and some surprising results to keep the punters interested and the women's games usually have everyone laughing! Eventual winners were the Tauae Bulls, repeating their successes in 2004 and 2006.






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