Matariki, the Maori New Year, is rich with tradition. Discover the importance of Matariki, and explore ways that you can celebrate the Maori New Year with your family.
What is Matariki?
Matariki is the Maori name for a group of seven stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. Some people think of Matariki as a mother star with six daughters, and it is often referred to as the Seven Sisters.
Matariki appears in the eastern sky sometime around the shortest day of the year, and is thought to determine how successful the harvest crop will be in the coming season. The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop will be.
What does Matariki mean?
Matariki has two meanings, both of which refer to the cluster of stars. Mata Riki means Tiny Eyes, and Mata Ariki means Eyes of God.
When is Matariki celebrated?
Matariki begins to rise in the last few days of May, and this symbolises the coming of the Maori New Year. Some iwi (tribes) start celebrations when Matariki is first seen, however it is the first new moon after Matariki that officially signals the Maori New Year. Some people celebrate the New Year on the day the new moon rises, and others celebrate on the day after the new moon. Celebrations can last up to 3 days.
The Matariki new moon happens sometime in June.
2015 – 18 June
2016 – 6 June
2017 – 25 June
2018 – 15 June
Why is Matariki important?
In years gone by, Matariki was thought to determine your crop for the coming season, and therefore it was important to recognise the part it played in nature‚Äôs cycle. The disappearance of Matariki in Autumn, signaled the time to gather and preserve crops, and so was an important marker in the harvest calender.
Nowadays, Matariki is seen as an important time to celebrate the earth, and show respect for the land on which we live.
How is Matariki celebrated?
Traditionally Matariki was celebrated by gathering with whanau (family) and reflecting on the past. The festival‚Äôs connection to the stars provided an opportunity for families to remember their whakapapa (genealogy) and those ancestors who had passed away to the heavens. Offerings were made to land-based gods who would help provide good crops, and new trees were planted to signal new beginnings.
Many of these traditional celebrations are still practiced today, however there are many others ways that Matariki is celebrated also. Most celebrations focus around music, song, dance, food and family, and celebrations can last up to 3 days.
How do communities recognise Matariki?
Matariki is a good opportunity for Maori to share their stories and culture with the wider community, and many events and activities are planned throughout the country to share and celebrate Matariki. Some common events and activities include:
- Concerts and cultural performances
- Art exhibitions
- Art and Craft Workshops
- The sharing of myths and legends
- Astronomy Workshops
- Hangi and Feasts
- Dawn Ceremonies
- Family Days
- Tree Planting in Conservation Areas
- Whakapapa (Genealogy) Workshops
- Cooking Demonstrations
How can you celebrate Matariki with your family?
There are lots of ways you can celebrate Matariki with your family, and in doing so, start your own family traditions. Some ideas to get you started include:
A Family Feast
Make Matariki a time when the whole family gets together to feast and give thanks. It may be a nice opportunity to explore traditional Maori food like hangi and rewena (Maori bread).
A New Harvest
Use Matariki as a time to clear the winter vegetables, and prepare your vegetable garden for the new planting. It could become a family tradition to do the gardening altogether ‚Äď at least for one day of the year.
Contact your local Department of Conservation to find out if there are any regeneration projects happening in your area. Organise to plant a tree on Matariki, or better still, get together with a group of friends and plant several.
Sleep Under the Stars
Spend a night sleeping under the stars (or under a tent!), and tell your own family stories. You may want to talk about family memories, or create goals for the coming lunar year.
New Years Resolutions
Most of us create New Years Resolutions in January, but by the time June rolls around they are long forgotten. Why not use Matariki as a time to renew your resolutions.
Attend a Matariki Event
Matariki events are held right throughout the country, and new comers are usually welcomed as people are eager to share their culture. To find out what Matariki events are happening in your area, contact your local Marae or Maori Trust.
Happy New Year.
Matariki website by New Zealand Maori Tourism Council which includes a comprehensive list of Matariki events within every region around New Zealand.
A collection of New Zealand television content focused around Matariki.