Many Anzac Day ceremonies occur at war memorials. There are nearly 500 civic First World War memorials in New Zealand, most of which were erected in the 1920s. Until that time, the ceremonies took place in public buildings or churches, and sometimes had a strong religious focus.
War memorials often symbolise remembrance, service and sacrifice. These themes, rather than a more religious message, emerged once Anzac Day ceremonies were held at memorials from the 1920s.
RSA leaders, service personnel, and local politicians increasingly took key roles, rather than the clergy. Over the years, the laying of wreaths has become more central to the ceremony, while fewer hymns have been sung.