Matariki is one of the most important Māori celebrations. It signifies the start of the New Year in Māori culture. In 2021, Matariki will rise from 2nd – 10th July; however, celebrations are held throughout June and July. From next year, Matariki will be officially recognised as a Public Holiday in New Zealand.
What is Matariki?
Matariki is the name for a star cluster, also known by its ancient Greek name, the Pleiades, that rises in late June or early July. Traditionally, Māori believed if the Matariki stars were very bright in the sky, it was a sign of a warmer season and a more fruitful harvest. It is important to note that the reappearance of the Matariki stars signals the beginning of the new year; however, not all iwi celebrate at the same time. Some iwi may begin their festivities on the first full after the star cluster rises or the next new moon.
You can see Matariki for yourself. Check out this video on how to find Matariki in the night sky.
How is Matariki celebrated?
Several traditional festivities are conducted to celebrate Matariki, which include the lighting of ritual fires, the making of offerings, and celebrations of various kinds to farewell the dead, honour ancestors, and celebrate life. Today Matariki celebrates the unique place in which we live and gives respect to the land we live on. This is celebrated through education and remembering whakapapa (ancestry). New trees and crops are also planted to represent new beginnings.
Celebrations traditionally last up to 3 days after the new moon has risen following the Matariki clusters visibility in the sky. During this time, people come together to remember their ancestors, share food, sing, tell stories and play music. Many festivals are being held in 2021 in Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, and across Aotearoa.
Matariki is an incredible opportunity to connect with Māori culture and discover and appreciate the destinations across the country. Everyone in Aotearoa has the chance to celebrate the unique places they live in, show respect for the land and share and grow together. With many events and celebrations all across New Zealand, from art exhibitions, craft workshops, to food events and nature walks, there is something for everyone to learn about and connect with Matariki.