Matariki the Māori New Year, is rich with tradition. Discover the importance of Matariki, and explore ways that you can celebrate the Māori New Year with your family. Matariki is officially celebrated on 13 July 2020.

What is Matariki the Māori New Year?

Matariki is the Māori name for a group of 7 stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. Note, some hapū know the Matariki as 9 stars (although the last 2 can be hard to make out with the naked eye).

Some people think of Matariki as a mother star with 6 daughters, and it is often referred to as the Seven Sisters.

Others think that Matariki are the ‘eyes of the god’. When Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children the god of wind, Tāwhirimātea, became angry, tearing out his eyes and hurling them into the heavens.

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.

To learn more about the story of the Eyes of God, check out this awesome animation by Atawhai Tibble. This video was made for Year 1 students, although it’s still quite haunting. The original story from the people of Ngai Tuhoe has Tawhirimatea ripping his eyes out and throwing them to the heavens. In this version he uses his tears:

 

Courtesy: Atawhai Tibble

What are the Matariki star names?

Although there are actually 1000’s of stars that make up the pleaides cluster, and there are technically 9 stars that make up the constellation, there’s just 7 stars you can really make out with the naked eye.

It’s these 7 stars that have traditionally been known as the 7 sisters, or the Matariki. The Matariki star names are:

Alcyone – Matariki, eyes of Tāwhirimātea
Atlas – Tupu-ā-rangi, sky tohunga
Electra – Waipuna-ā-rangi, sky spring
Taygeta – Waitī, sweet water
Pleione – Tupu-ā-nuku, Earth tohunga
Merope – Ururangi, entry to the heavens
Maia – Waitā, sprinkle of water

As Dr Matamua notes some Iwi make out 9 stars in the constellation, but it is very difficult to make these out with the naked eye. The two extra stars are:

Pōhutukawa – connects Matariki to the dead and is the star that carries our dead across the year (Sterope/Asterope).
Hiwaiterangi/Hiwa – is the youngest star in the cluster, the star you send your wishes to (Celaeno).

When is Matariki celebrated?

Matariki begins to rise in the last few days of May and into June, and is different every year, and this symbolises the coming of the Māori New Year.

Some iwi, or tribes, started celebrations when Matariki was first seen, others would celebrate on the first new moon after Matariki, and still others on the first full moon.

The Matariki new moon happens some time in June or July each 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 for up to 3 days. The modern option for the Maori New Year is to pick a day between the new and full moons, and this has become the more traditional date.

Upcoming dates:

In 2020, Matariki will begin on 13 July.

In 2021, Matariki will begin on 2 July.

How to find the Matariki star cluster

Educator Martin Langdon, on behalf of Te Papa Museum shows us how to find the Matariki star cluster in this awesome short video:

Courtesy: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Why was Matariki important?

Matariki harvest

The disappearance of Matariki in Autumn, signals the time to gather and preserve crops. The Matariki disappear from view in April, and reappear again in late May/early June. So this was an important marker in the harvest calendar.

After the harvesting of traditional crops, such as kumara, pikopiko and karaka berries, when the storehouses were full, Māori would celebrate the harvest season. This celebration coincided with the reappearance of Matariki.

Matariki crop planting

In years gone by, Matariki was thought to determine your crop for the coming season, so it was important to recognise the part it played in nature’s cycle.

Matariki atua ka eke mai i te rangi e roa,
E whāngainga iho ki te mata o te tau e roa e.

Divine Matariki come forth from the far-off heaven,
Bestow the first fruits of the year upon us.

Māori used Matariki as a signal for when to plant their crops after the long winter. If the stars were clear and bright, it was a sign that a favourable and productive season lay ahead, and planting would begin in September.

If the stars appeared hazy and closely bunched together, a cold winter was in store and planting was put off until October.

Nowadays, Matariki is still seen as an important time to celebrate the earth, and show respect for the land on which we live.

How was Matariki celebrated?

Traditionally Matariki was celebrated by gathering with whanau (family) and reflecting on the past.

The festival’s 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 Māori 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

You might also be interested in this collection of New Zealand television content focused around Matariki.

Or you can check out our Matariki events and activities around New Zealand – 2018 page.

6 simple ways to 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:

1. 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 Māori food like hangi and rewena, or Māori bread. Our star-shaped sugar cookies will go down well for desert.

2. 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 – at least for one day of the year.

3. Tree Planting

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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Attend a Matariki Event

For more great ideas on how to spend Matariki with your friends and family, check out our Fresh ideas for celebrating Matariki with your Family.

Happy New Year!

Check out this article for a great range of Matariki craft ideas to do with your kids. Or try out our simple Matariki and the Southern Lights art project. Get baking with our star-shaped sugar cookie recipe, or check out our Matariki events and activities around New Zealand page. Or find out some Fresh ideas for celebrating Matariki.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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Don Robertson

When in Cambodia, we celebrated International, Khmer and Chinese New Years. Here, we celebrate Matariki and International New Year. Makes more sense too* celebrate a winter New Year than a summer one. I can only think of one reason why people would have a problem with that.

*Thats to make Paulette Stewart happy. BTW, Paulette, Maori should be capitalised, you pedantic dumbass.

jon lee

Lot of assumptions there. When was the first written account? Did Capt Cook mention it?

KF

Of course there are a lot of assumptions there! You’re referring to cultures that passed on knowledge through oral rendition. There is no first written account. The Maori compass includes Matariki on it, so we can assume Matariki was used for navigational purposes, and that would infer Matariki was ‘recorded’ prior to 1500AD ( https://teara.govt.nz/en/diagram/2222/maori-star-compass). Captain Cook’s historical, and more importantly cultural, accounts of the Maori people leave a lot to be desired! — Jarrod

jon lee

Wonder what your issue with Capt Cook?
I find Matariki unusual in that there are absolutely no references to it prior to say the year 2000. All down to oral tradition you say.

Ataahua Vili

Just wanted to know how many countries celebrate Matariki

KF

Hi Ataahua, another great question! The easy answer is just one: Aotearoa! Matariki is a uniquely Maori custom, so it’s only celebrated here. The more difficult answer would be to say which cultures around the world use the Pleiades constellation for agricultural purposes. I’m sure there are many, throughout Polynesia, Melanesia, Asia, South America and beyond. Good luck in your search. — Jarrod

jon lee

When was it first recorded? Google no help

KF

Hi Jon, this is a great question, and not one with a straightforward answer! Maori have used the Matariki, and other constellations, for agriculture, religious and navigational uses since earliest memory. So at least as far back is 1500AD. Maori arrived in Aotearoa from East Polynesia, and possibly from South East Asia prior to that. We know they’ve used the stars for navigational purposes for thousands of years. So it’s safe to assume that Matariki was identified many thousands of years ago. In terms of Matariki used as part of the planting/harvesting cycle, we can assume this knowledge was brought… Read more »

Amber Waters

Do you think the government should acknowledge Matariki with a public holiday?

KF

Hi Amber, here at Kiwi Families we are huge supporters of a nationally recognised Matariki! Whether or not a public holiday is called for, I’m not sure. But we should certainly celebrate the Maori New Year with the same sort of fervour that China celebrates their New Years. On that note, we’re stoked that Wellington City Council made a huge call to cancel Guy Fawkes , and replace it with a mid-winter Matariki fireworks display. It’s a step in the right direction! — Jarrod

Natasha Namana

“The reappearance of the seven Matariki stars, in late May or early June, signals the beginning of the Māori New Year”. I got this small piece from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongorewa. Actually, the reappearance of the NINE Matariki stars signalling the Maori New Year will appear in July. We celebrate Matariki from the 17th of July to around the 27th of July. During this period there are some days where we do not celebrate.

Natasha Namana

There are two stars missing. Hiwaiterangi and Waiti. Hiwaiterangi is the wishing star. There is a special process for this. Waiti is the star used to establish whether it will be a good year for things like eel etc. The stars are also positioned wrong. On your diagram Tupuanuku is above Tupuarangi. Nuku is always below Rangi. Papatuanuku (Earth Mother), Ranginui (Sky Father)……hence nuku below and rangi above.

tony

hi

Jordan Karena

When was this website made please…..as i am doing a powerpoin presentation on matariki thank you.

KF

Hi Jordan, we kicked off 10 years ago in 2006. Good luck with your presso — Jarrod

Ne've Wolloner

Hi i was wondering
why is Matariki important to Māori
Please answer asap
I need it for tommorw
thankyou so much for your web sight its amazing
its helped me heaps
thx

KF

Hi Ne’ve, Matariki is important to Maori for a number of reasons. The seven sisters signified a time for harvesting crops, as well as for celebrating and being with whanau/family. Matariki is also important spiritually for many Maori and the stars were used for navigation purposes. — Jarrod.

derp

what did Maori ancestors use Matariki for in the past

lolly

I just want to find out What do the seven stars signify?

Sonsaku Hakufu

I just want to know “How was Matariki first discovered?”

HelloItsMe

This doesn’t help me, I want to find out about “how many clusters of stars make up matariki”

KF

Hi there, Matariki refers to the Pleiades constellation, which is a cluster made up of nine bright stars: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiades — Jarrod

Paulette Stewart

matariki is one star cluster made up of seven bright stars

Jack BLAKE

Minecraft

Jack BLAKE

So retaded

Robin green

Did you know that the Japanese car name Subaru means matariki,which is why there are seven stars on their emblem,?

Rochelle Gribble

Yes! That’s right – great point 🙂 Thanks for reminding me!

Archie Cardno

hey can you put in some facts? that would be cool

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Archie, what kinds of facts were you after?

kenny

cool facts

Rihanna

I still don’t get what matariki day is can you please help me figure out for my homework at school.=)

PugLover

hi just wanted to ask how did the maori ancestors use matariki and for what?

Neon1234

I AM NEW MY SCHOOL IS POINT VEIW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Neon1234

Don’t say I am not allowed please this is the best web site I could find…..

Neon1234

Hi I am from Point veiw neon1234 is not my name and I am here to know stuff about matariki for my homework

Ize

Matariki has been celebrated by Maori as part of our heritage since way back however the marketing and exploitation of this integral part of our annual calendar has seen modern day NZers view it as merely a festival. In western terms I would liken it to xmas celebrations but without presents, a time for families to gather together but for Maori it also means to remember those who have passed on and celebrate those who have joined the family fold, re-establishing and maintaining our whakapapa links. It also signifies the times to prepare for planting/harvesting and by the appearance of… Read more »

kitkat

Do you celebrate Matariki in other countries? What do you eat in Matariki?And possibly do you know what year it started? Sorry for all the question.

Lydia

What do people give to each other on matariki?

Mohi Chase

Thank you for the very much for your detailed ‘treatise’ – article of Matariki and the Maori New Year. I digress a little and will return: My wife and I watched a documentary a few days ago where some of the Greatest Historians of our time ‘greatly lauded’ Polynesians (as a whole) as the most skilled sea travelers in history. They said Polynesians saw the Pacific Ocean as a ‘great highway’ and used it to it’s full capacity, and not only did they ‘give tribute’ to our Waka-taua (twin canoe catamaran) but also to the great skill of ‘Navigation by… Read more »

Radha Jhons

really nice information about matariki
Iam a Māori as well and I love it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

kirron

very good site,answered all of the questions i had!!!!

jawdi

I can’t help but think that you ask questions for answers you already know! If you are looking for answers research your questions instead of using a site like this to request answers. A lot of people have there own beliefs about matariki and will elaborate accordingly. Which will provide you with a different context to your own answers. It has been written basically for you above this comment box area.

Caleb Kaukau

chip man here

Caleb Kaukau

hi tirarau

trace

Umm…if you read the article at the top it will tell you what matariki is, its significance and why we celebrate during this time of the year. It may not be recognised world wide, but if you had a ethnic population in the billions then Id say you stand a better chance of becoming more recognised. I dont know why im even answering some of the dumb n ignorant posts on here. Do some research before posting dont be lazy and or ignorant.

haidyn

How long do the celebrations go for?

Tea ute

When is the maori new year?

Radha Jhons

Matariki comes at the last days of may and is between June and July

rico

so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so cooooolllll : )

Nasreen

This Site Is Helpfull

Nasreen

This Was Really Helpfull For My Homework

liv

I really love matariki it just fells like I get two maori new years

yolo

NZ celebrate matariki because maori lived here (some still do) and matariki is important in the maori culture

Annie Bats

I will definitely be celebrating Matariki this is our new year and time to remember those who have passed on, giving thanks for the bountiful for then nutritional food we grow, acknowledging our whanau and of course our uniqueness as New Zealanders. Lastly thank goodness Matariki has not been commercialised like Xmas, Mother’s Day etc and l hope it never will be.

guest

wow this has really helped me with my matariki report thanks to who ever created this page

IM AWESOME

hi just want to find out-what is the purpose of having matariki?

IM a guest

help please

Guest

Hello Tupu

Guest

What Dose Matariki Like To Where on that day.

Carolinebubble

Please help answer my question. Anyone……………..

Carolinebubble

How did they know matariki was happening?

Niamh

it was just around that time so they remembered that that would be a reminder to harvest their crops

hope it helps

taannz

the introduction of matariki is govenment generated as a front to being culturally sensitive to the ways of te maori’… each iwi have their own name for their planting stars and matariki is not one we associate with back home in tuhoe land – we have te whetu whanau’ northland have parearau and so on and so forth – planting time when matariki appears happens in the northern hemisphere we are at the bottom of the earth therefore our whenua is noa or at rest during the winter months – anyway im not sure why the drive to celebrate when… Read more »

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