Have you been wondering how you can celebrate Matariki the Māori New Year at your place. Here’s 5 fresh ways to celebrate Matariki with your family.

Matariki begins to rise in the last few days of May, and this symbolises the coming of the Maori New Year. Some iwi, or 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.

Traditionally celebrations revolved around the previous year’s harvest, as well as planting for the new year. And celebrations included games, story-telling, singing and dancing, as well as kite flying.

More recently, Matariki has been celebrated in New Zealand with cultural arts and performances, shows and puppetry, and even New Years-esque fireworks displays.

If you’re interested in celebrating this mid-winter ‘New Year’ with your family, here’s 10 fresh ideas you could consider.

5 fresh ways to celebrate Matariki with your family

1. Fire-safe sky lanterns

Sky lanterns have deservedly come under fire (excuse the pun) of late. They have become more common place all over the world in celebrating different events. But, although they do look beautiful, they’re also very dangerous. If they catch on fire, and land in dry scrub, or even in someone’s backyard, they can easily start a major fire.

Why not make your own that still look stunning and are safe for the environment? In fact, you might just find that making them is all part of the fun.

Just use short lengths of thin bamboo, bend them into circles, and tape the ends. Use 2 longer ones for the outside of the circle, and 6 slightly shorter lengths for the inside circles. Then tape them all together in a globe shape to strengthen.

Now make up a papier mache paste, and papier mache strips of waxy paper all around the outside of your bamboo frame. Leave a small hole in one end.

Now tie your lantern to a long stick, and insert a tealight candle inside to ‘light’ it up! If you’re really creative, why not make star-shaped lanterns.

Matariki-sky lanterns
Courtesy: Just So Festival

2. Crafting with kids

Crafting with your kids is a wonderful way to bond, and have fun. There a lots of ideas for Matariki crafts, from kite making, to flax weaving, from sky lanterns to star pictures.

The actual Matariki story is ripe for retelling, and a great mythological story to teach your children. So take some time to find out more about the Matariki constellation, as well as the myths that go with it, and the cultural significance it had.

Then spend time with your children talking about these things while you work on a fun project together. You might like to try out this amazing Matariki-inspired Southern lights art project:

Matariki and the southern lights art project

3. Storytelling, songs and poetry

Why not go out on a limb and organise a storytelling/singing/poetry/ukelele evening?

Set up a Facebook event, and invite a set of close friends and family you think would be confident enough to get involved. And then make sure everyone brings some sort of entertainment to the party. You could break up the more formal parts with music and mulled wine.

Matariki music

What a wonderful way to celebrate the Maori New Year. This idea could become a feature in your annual calendar.

And don’t forget to include the kids in this idea too. Children are super creative, as long as you make it safe for them, give them a chance to practise before the guests arrive, and keep it simple, they’ll definitely give it a go.

4. Host a harvest party

Traditionally Matariki falls between the previous year’s harvest and the next one. And that means the larder (or perhaps that should be the pātaka) is full to overflowing.

So why not combine that Kiwi party classic, the bring-a-plate potluck, with the celebration of Matariki?

Matariki harvest party

Nothing warms the winter soul quite like great food, shared amongst even greater friends. You could always get a large pot of mulled wine on the stove to further warm the cockles.

Keep this sort of evening intimate, with soft lighting, and soft music in the background. Have people sit around in a large circle so that everyone can see each other, and then let the storytelling commence over shared plates of food. This sort of harvest party should leave people feeling like they belong to a really close-knit community.

You want your guests to turn around to you at the door just as they leave, and look in you in the eye, and just go, ‘ahhhh, thank you, I really needed that.’

5. Make it your actual New Year’s party

Take a leaf out of Wellington City Council‘s book, and make this time of year your actual New Year. And you don’t need to pollute the beautiful night sky with nasty old noisy fireworks either!

Forget Guy Fawkes, that’s a British institution, and forget New Year’s Eve that’s so 2017!

Why not organise amongst your usual rabble of revellers to switch their New Year’s knees up to mid-winter. It’s cold outside, possibly snowing, we’re all in hibernation mode, and just want to curl up with a glass of wine, and something good on Netflix. What better time of year to get people together in a warm room, with good music and lots of New Years-esque singing, dancing and kissing…

If you still feel the need to sing Auld Lang Syne, then so be it. But let’s face it, no one actually knows the words to that song! Why not rock out the New Zealand national anthem, in English and te Reo, on the strike of midnight instead?

That’s our 5 fresh ideas for celebrating Matariki New Year at your place. For more ideas on events happening in your region, and food and crafts you can make with your family, check out our Matariki page.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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