Culture

How do you tell it's a New Year without a calendar?

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 re-appear 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.

Happy Matariki Aotearoa!

To learn more visit Te Iwa o Matariki | Māori New Year | Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (twoa.ac.nz)