The Maori New Year is heralded by a pre-dawn star constellation called the Matariki. Traditionally, June and July have been a time for people to connect and give thanks to the sea, sky and land, but also to farewell the departed and welcome the new year.
The Maori New Year is heralded by a pre-dawn star constellation called the Matariki. Traditionally, June and July have been a time for people to connect and give thanks to the sea, sky and land, but also to farewell the departed and welcome the new year. Maori tradition also has it that people share kai (or food), entertainment, rituals and learning during Matariki.
Back in the day, the Matariki star cluster used to be a navigational support and gave clues to the seasons to come. Clear stars signalled a warm and productive year, while hazy stars indicated a cold year. The tradition to celebrate Matariki lost momentum in the last century, but with a recent significant renaissance of Maori culture, the festival is now celebrated all over New Zealand and is a great way to learn more about ancient ways and rituals.
Some of the most popular Matariki festivals include the one in Auckland and the Tai Tokerau (Northland) Matariki Festival. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa puts on an 18-day Matariki festival programme, running from 9 June till 26 June in 2011.
Events to join during Matariki celebrations include fashion shows by Maori designers, exhibitions, arts and crafts markets, and traditional workshops. You’ll also find Maori music and kapa haka performances, guided tours, opportunities to sample Maori cuisine and events for kids. There’s something for all ages and interests, so don’t miss out on your first-hand Maori culture experience!
Finally, if you want to spot the Matariki, the star cluster rises on the northeast horizon in late May/early June about where the sun is rising. Why not visit an observatory to enjoy the best views and learn more? The Stardome Observatory in Auckland, for example, has special Matariki events to attend – the Matariki Breakfast on 18 June from 5:30am, and the planetarium show Matariki Dawn at 7pm daily from 15 June to 19 June.