Image: Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa
Aotearoa-New Zealand will celebrate the festival of Matariki from 2 July, marking the beginning of the Māori lunar calendar year. The festival is a time of renewal and celebrations which can last up to three days and focuses on song, music, dance, food and family.
In 2022, Aotearoa-New Zealand will celebrate Matariki as a public holiday for the first time, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing that the holiday will be held on June 24. This is the first public holiday to be based on a Māori festival in Aotearoa-New Zealand’s history.
Matariki follows a lunar calendar system which is different to the western solar calendar, so the Matariki dates change each year, just like Easter.
Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster known in Europe as the Pleiades, which becomes visible in the Southern Hemisphere in June/July. Matariki can mean either ‘the eyes of god’ or ‘little eyes’, and while different traditions are practiced by different iwi (tribes), up to nine stars are acknowledged.
Matariki is the star that signifies reflection, hope, our connection to the environment, and the gathering of people. Matariki is also connected to the health and wellbeing of people and is also the mother of the other stars in the cluster.
Waitī is associated with all fresh water bodies and the food sources that are sustained by those rivers, streams and lakes
Waitā is associated with the ocean, and all food sources within it.
Waipuna-ā-rangi is associated with the rain.
Tupuānuku is the star associated with everything that grows within the soil to be harvested or gathered for food.
Tupuārangi is associated with everything that grows up in the trees: fruits, berries, and birds.
Ururangi is associated with the winds.
Pōhutukawa is associated with those that have passed on since the last rising of Matariki.
Hiwa-i-te-rangi is associated with your dreams, desires and wishes, for the coming year.
Traditionally Matariki was celebrated by gathering with whanau (family) and reflecting on the past. Matariki’s connection with 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.
Matariki followed the harvesting of crops when the pātaka (food storehouses) were full, freeing up time for family and leisure. These festivities included the lighting of ritual fires, the making of offerings, and celebrations of various kinds to farewell the dead, to honour ancestors, and to celebrate life. The appearance of the stars was used to determine how successful the following harvest would be. The brighter the stars the more productive the crop.
Today, Matariki celebrations take many forms across Aotearoa-New Zealand, and all peoples of Aotearoa-New Zealand have the opportunity to celebrate, show respect for the land they live on, and to share the Matariki tradition. This year Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei will be iwi manaaki (the host iwi) for the Matariki Festival held in Auckland.
Mānawatia a Matariki (Happy Māori New Year) wherever you are.