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Matariki: A Celebration of Life and New Beginnings



SUMMARY

Matariki, marking the Māori New Year, is a significant celebration in New Zealand observed from late May to early July, varying by tribe and location. It honors the Pleiades star cluster, each star reflecting environmental and ancestral significance.

 

Historically, it marked winter preparations, gratitude for the land and sea's bounty, and guided agricultural practices, but its observance waned in the 19th century due to European influence. Recently revitalized, Matariki is now celebrated with community gatherings, festivals, traditional performances, and storytelling, focusing on remembrance, present gratitude, and future aspirations. It underscores values like love, respect, and remembrance, strengthening connections to heritage and nature.

 

What is Matariki?

Matariki, a significant celebration in the Māori culture, marks the start of the Māori New Year. This event is observed annually in New Zealand during the winter months, typically from late May to early July. The exact dates vary according to tribes and geography. The first public holiday to celebrate Matariki was held in New Zealand on Friday 24 June, 2022. In 2024, Matariki falls on Friday 28 June.

The name “Matariki” translates to “tiny eyes” or “eyes of god” in Māori and refers to the Pleiades, a cluster of seven stars visible in the southern hemisphere during the winter months. Each star within the cluster holds specific significance, reflecting aspects of the environment and ancestral knowledge. The celebration of Matariki is deeply rooted in the country’s indigenous culture and has been passed down through generations.

Historically, Matariki marked the start of winter and was a time for the Māori people to prepare for the cold season. It was a time to give thanks for the bounty of the land and sea and to acknowledge the role of the stars in guiding the planting and harvesting of crops. The Māori people would gather together to celebrate with feasting, singing, and dancing. However, in the 19th century, the Māori New Year fell out of favour due to the influence of European culture and the suppression of Māori traditions. In recent decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in Matariki and a renewed celebration of Māori culture in New Zealand.

Celebrating Matariki

Matariki is celebrated in various ways throughout New Zealand. It is a time of community and family gatherings, feasting, and sharing of cultural traditions. Many communities throughout New Zealand hold festivals and events to celebrate Matariki. These events often include kapa haka performances, traditional Māori food, crafts, and storytelling. People all across Aotearoa come together to remember their ancestors, share (kai) food, sing songs, tell stories and play music.

The Matariki celebration is essentially based around three major principles:

  1. Remembrance – Honouring those who have died since the last rising of Matariki.
  2. Celebrating the present – Gathering together to give thanks for what we have.
  3. Looking to the future – Looking forward to the promise of a New Year.

There are a number of key values that were associated with Matariki and the Māori New Year celebrations. These values are still relevant today and can sit at the heart of our modern Matariki celebration. These values are:

  • Aroha – Love and respect for one another.
  • Whakamaumaharatanga - Remembrance.

In conclusion, Matariki is a time-honoured occasion that commemorates life, death, and rebirth. It provides an opportunity for communities to come together, share stories, and honour their heritage. The celebration of Matariki is an opportunity to strengthen the connection to the land, sea, and sky and to renew relationships with others. As we approach this year’s Matariki, we extend our warmest wishes to the Māori people and all New Zealanders. May this Matariki bring you joy, peace, and prosperity. Manawatia a Matariki!





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