Matariki - June 2021

What is Matariki?

Ko Matariki kei runga, ko te tohu tēnā o te tau!

Matariki signals the Māori New Year. It is a time of renewal and celebration in New Zealand that begins with the rising of the Matariki star cluster.

When is Matariki?

Matariki is a star cluster which appears in the night sky during mid-winter.   According to the Maramataka the reappearance of Matariki brings the old lunar year to a close and marks the beginning of the new year.   Hence, Matariki is associated with the Māori New Year.

Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whānui.

Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e!

Matariki reappears, Vega starts its flight.

The new year begins!

Traditionally, festivities were conducted to celebrate Matariki. They followed the harvesting of crops when the pātaka 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.

Ngā kai a Matariki, nāna i ao ake ki runga.

The foods of Matariki, gathered up by her.

Tohunga looked to the Matariki star cluster to find out how abundant the upcoming year’s harvest would be. Bright, clear stars promised a warm and successful season. Hazy stars, however, warned of cold weather and poor crops.

How is Matariki celebrated?

The twinkling of the Matariki stars in the pre-dawn sky heralds a special celebration for young and old. Across New Zealand, people come together to remember their ancestors, share food, sing, tell stories, and play music.

Matariki festivities highlight the tangata whenua. They remind us of the cycle of life and natural ways of marking the passing of time.