Matariki celebrations were popular before the arrival of Europeans, and continued into the 1900s. At the beginning of the 21st century Māori began to revive the practice of celebrating Matariki as a time of remembrance, joy and peace. This year Matariki will be marked for the first time with a public holiday in New Zealand.
Matariki is an important time for Māori and recently returned Kiwi Adrian Smith says honouring the indigenous holiday is a really positive reflection of New Zealand’s cultural evolution.
“When I lived in London the Māori and Polynesian community would celebrate Matariki together. We would teach our kids the songs so they knew what all the stars were. To come home and discover that it is now a public holiday is really affirming, and once again, sets New Zealand apart on the international stage by showing our cultural uniqueness.”
Matariki is named for the cluster of nine stars that appear just before dawn during the mid-winter months. The first star, Matariki, is known as the mother of the eight stars in the constellation. Matariki is connected to health and wellbeing. The second star Pōhutukawa, serves as a reminder of those who have passed on, encouraging us to take the time to remember them and acknowledge their impact on our lives. The next four stars Tupuānuku, Tupuārangi, Waitī and Waitā are connected with food that comes from the ground, the sky, freshwater and the sea. The seventh star, Waipuna-ā-rangi is connected to the rain, and the eighth is Ururangi connected to the wind. The final star is Hiwa-i-te-rangi, a wishing star, helping us to realise our hopes and aspirations for the coming year.
New York based Kiwi Maia Nuku says honouring Matariki is an important event for Kiwi all over the world.
“The observation of Matariki as an official holiday is a welcome and wonderful opportunity both in Aotearoa and overseas. It gives us a chance to share our Maoritanga – our culture, ideals, and practices – in an expansive way so people can understand our connections to cosmology and the stars, and their impact on our ocean and landscape in terms of seasons and planting cycles. It’s an exciting development.
There are a number of ways offshore Kiwi can celebrate Matariki. One of the easiest is by sharing Kai. Food gives people a connection to the harvests that lead up to the Māori New Year and brings people together to share entertainment, hospitality, and knowledge. Why not check out some of these recipes. Matariki is also an important time for reflection and to remember those who have passed during the year, you can light a candle over the weekend to remember the dead and honour their memory.
Most importantly for our offshore community, Matariki offers the perfect opportunity to connect with friends and whānau. It’s a chance to celebrate the unique culture, people, and stories that connect us all as Kiwi no matter where we live.
Mānawatia a Matariki, celebrate Matariki!