In the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand, a celestial phenomenon known as Matariki takes centre stage during winter.
Matariki, also referred to as Te Tau Hou Māori, is a significant event in Māori culture that signifies the start of the Māori New Year.
In this blog, we will explore what Matariki is, why it is celebrated, and delve into the rich history behind this cherished occasion.
What is Matariki?
Matariki is a cluster of stars, known as the Pleiades, that reappear in the southern skies of New Zealand during the winter months. The name “Matariki” translates to “tiny eyes” or “eyes of God” in the Māori language.
This cluster of stars holds immense cultural and spiritual significance to the Māori people, symbolising renewal, reflection, and new beginnings.
Matariki 2023 will be celebrated on the 14th of July. The Matariki dates shift annually to align with the Maramataka – or the Māori lunar calendar. The exact timing of Matariki varies from year to year but usually occurs during the middle of the winter.
Why is Matariki Celebrated?
Matariki is a time for communities and families to come together, reflect on the past, and celebrate the future. It marks a transition period, honouring the harvest season and preparing for the coming year.
This unique celebration is deeply rooted in Māori culture, fostering a sense of connection with the land, the stars, and the ancestors.
The History of Matariki
The history of Matariki stretches back thousands of years, connecting Māori communities with their celestial ancestors and the rhythms of the natural world. The exact origins of the celebration may vary among different iwi (tribes) and regions, but the essence remains the same.
According to Māori mythology, the stars of Matariki are the seven daughters of the sky father, Ranginui and the earth mother, Papatūānuku. They include Matariki, the mother star, and her six sisters: Tupu-ā-Nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi, and Ururangi. Each sister represents different aspects of life, such as the land, food, and the ocean.
Traditionally, Matariki was a time for reflection and planning. Communities would gather to share stories, perform rituals, and partake in feasts. They would express gratitude for the past year’s blessings and seek guidance for the year ahead. It was also an opportunity to connect with the natural world, observing the behaviour of plants and animals to predict the season’s outcomes.
In recent decades, there has been a resurgence in the celebration of Matariki, fueled by a renewed interest in Māori culture and a desire to strengthen cultural identity. The revival of Matariki has been supported by various Māori organisations, schools, and government initiatives, recognising its significance as a national event.
Today, Matariki is celebrated with various activities and events throughout New Zealand. These include cultural performances, art exhibitions, storytelling, traditional ceremonies, kite flying, and planting native trees. Schools incorporate Matariki into their curriculum, teaching children about Māori traditions and fostering cross-cultural understanding.
Matariki – Te Tau Hou Māori: A Cherished Celebration
Matariki – Te Tau Hou Māori holds deep cultural and spiritual significance in New Zealand.
As the Māori New Year, it provides a time for reflection, gratitude, and anticipation. This celestial event connects Māori communities with their ancestral past, inspires unity, and fosters a shared heritage among all New Zealanders.
Through the revitalisation of Matariki, New Zealand is embracing the rich cultural tapestry of its indigenous people and promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.
As we gather under the shining stars of Matariki, we celebrate the past, honour the present, and look forward to a future filled with renewed hope and aspirations.