For Māori, the rising of Matariki signals the beginning of the Māori New Year. Māori observe the brightness and visibility of the stars to predict how the year ahead will be. It also signifies a time to gather, reflect, remember those who are no longer with us, celebrate the present, and plan for the future.
How is Matariki celebrated?
Fun and entertainment
Families gather together during Matariki for learning and entertainment. Whare tapere, which included tākaro (games) and haka – an important part of Matariki celebrations.
There’s an array of events all across Aotearoa that take place throughout Matariki. Keep an eye out for events in your community.
For Wellington locals, find out what events are happening in celebration here
For the rest of Aotearoa check out the events happening near you here
Reflection and remembrance
Matariki, as a marker of transition, was a time for families to mourn and honour those who had passed away in the previous year. These loved ones were believed to have transformed into stars, who now shine down from the heavens.
You could light a candle and reflect on the year just been and take a minute to remember those no longer with us.
Enjoy some kai with friends and whānau
Traditionally, Matariki is a time to share kai from the storehouse, harvested from past seasons – as it was too cold for planting during these winter months. So, relax, enjoy good company – and eat!
If your organisation is wanting to celebrate Matariki, you could draw inspiration from this article Isthmus shared with us on how their business brings it in.
Matariki is a time to plan for the future. Write down your hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the year ahead. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to see? Record thoughts like these and then later assess – how did you do?
What’s the correct phrase to celebrate Matariki?
If you’re looking for a way to articulate the Matariki celebration, then you should say ‘Mānawatia a Matariki’. This new phrase was developed by Professor Rangi Mātāmua and Hēmi Kelly.
Professor Rangi Mātāmua from the University of Waikato, has been carrying on the work of his grandfather, astronomer Te Kōkau Himiona Te Pikikōtuku. Rangi has spent over 20 years researching Matariki.
As Rangi said: “Matariki doesn’t come out of a western context, it’s Māori. So if you’re trying to apply a greeting to the Matariki celebration where you say hari (happy) Matariki or meri (merry) Matariki – it doesn’t make sense.”
So Rangi and Hēmi developed the phrase Mānawatia a Matariki – meaning to honour, acknowledge, and welcome in Matariki.
“It’s important that if we’re going to celebrate something that comes out of a Māori context, we use the correct terms and the correct language around the celebration.”
In this podcast by Rangi, he shares a Māori perspective of astronomical and cosmological links relevant to Matariki.
Beyond Matariki is a new series on Māori Television, that explores the depth of knowledge that pertains to Māori astronomy.
There are many resources out there that give an in-depth explanation of what Matariki is. This article by The Spinoff gives a great “quick explainer”.
Matariki constellation and its meaning
Matariki is often thought of as a seven-star cluster, referred to as the Seven Sisters. In Greek mythology (the most universally known narrative of the constellation) the Pleiads were the seven daughters of Atlas.
There are many different legends and ways of understanding what Matariki is – Māori is very diverse. As Rangi states “there are other variations to the narrative Matariki.”
Rangi’s record has 9 stars, which includes two stars that were forgotten over time – Pōhutukawa and Hiwaiterangi. Each star is connected to the earth, and the brightness of the individual stars help predict what the year ahead will look like.
Matariki – this star holds a very important connection to wellbeing and health. She guides the other stars, her children, through the night sky – all of whom have an important connection to the activities on the earth.
Pōhutukawa – the oldest of the cluster and connected to those who have passed on since the last rising of Matariki.
Tipuānuku – this star is connected to all food that is gathered/harvested from the soil.
Tipuārangi – has a strong association of things that grow above our head – so things that grow up in trees, including fruits, berries and birds.
Waitī – the star associated with freshwater bodies and foods from these waters.
Waitā – associated with the ocean and foods that come from it.
Waipunārangi – star connected to the rainfall of the year.
Ururangi – connected to the winds.
Hiwaiterangi – star associated with the wishes we hold in our hearts and the attainment of goals.