Under the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar, the reappearance of Matariki in the mid-winter night sky heralds the start of a New Year.
Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars visible in our night sky at a specific time of the year. In June/July, Matariki will reappear in the dawn sky, this cluster of stars is also known as the Pleiades in Greek mythology, Matali’i in Samoa, Makali’i in Hawaii, Matari’i in French Polynesia and Subaru in Japan.
According to legend, when Ranginui, sky father and Papatūānuku, earth mother were separated by their children, Tāwhirimātea, the god of the winds became so distraught he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens, Matariki means the eyes of god.
It is a time to celebrate new life, to remember those who’ve passed and to plan for the future. And it’s a time to spend with whānau and friends – to enjoy kai (food), waiata (song), tākaro (games) and haka. Māori tūpuna (ancestors) would look to Matariki for help with their harvesting. When Matariki disappeared in April/May, it was time to preserve crops for the winter season. When it re-appeared in June/July, tūpuna would read the stars to predict the upcoming season – clear and bright stars promised a warm and abundant winter while hazy stars warned of a bleak winter.
Because Māori follow the maramataka Māori lunar calendar, not the European calendar, the dates for Matariki change every year.
In 2022, a Matariki public holiday will be our first public holiday that recognises Te Ao Māori (the Māori world). The first public holiday to celebrate Matariki will be on Friday 24 June 2022. Mātauranga Māori is at the heart of celebrations of the Matariki public holiday, and it will be a time for:
Remembrance – honouring those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki.
Celebrating the present – gathering together to give thanks for what we have.
Looking to the future – looking forward to the promise of a new year.
Happy Matariki Aotearoa!
To learn more visit Te Iwa o Matariki | Māori New Year | Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (twoa.ac.nz)