Matariki is a special occasion in the New Zealand calendar that marks the start of the Māori New Year. Signified by the Matariki cluster of stars reappearing in our night sky, this is a time to reflect on the past year, celebrate the present, and plan for the year ahead.
What is Matariki?
Matariki is a star cluster that appears in the early morning sky in New Zealand during the mid-winter months. The star cluster is well known throughout the world and at different times of the year can be seen around the globe. It is one of the brightest clusters in the sky, containing hundreds of member stars.
Matariki has different names around the world. In English, it is called by its ancient Greek name, Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. In Hawaiian it is Makali’i, ‘eyes of royalty, and in Japan it is Subaru, meaning ‘gathered together.
What is the significance of Matariki?
Matariki is known as the Māori New Year in Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview). Closely connected with the maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), the reappearance of the Matariki stars in the early morning sky brings the past year to a close. It marks the beginning of the new year.
Mātauranga Māori (ancestral knowledge and wisdom) is at the heart of celebrations of the Matariki public holiday and it will be a time for;
- Remembrance – Honouring those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki
- Celebrating the present – Gathering together to give thanks for what we have
- Looking to the future – Looking forward to the promise of a new year
Historically, the stars of Matariki were also closely tied to planting, harvesting and hunting. If the stars appeared clear and bright, it signified a great season ahead.
How to celebrate Matariki
Traditionally, Matariki festivities included lighting ritual fires, making offerings and various celebrations to farewell the dead, honour ancestors and celebrate life. Nowadays, people all across Aotearoa come together to remember their ancestors, share (kai) food, sing songs, tell stories and play music.
Matariki is about reconnecting with your home and whānau (family).
Today there are many ways to acknowledge the Māori New Year and observe the rising of Matariki:
- Take time to remember loved ones who are no longer with you
- Give thanks for the year that has passed
- Enjoy a Matariki feast together
- Plan for the next year
- Spend time with family and friends
- Write down your wishes for the year
- Plan to grow a garden