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Matariki - celebrate a growing tradition

This page contains information about the Māori festival - Matariki.
Updated: 20/06/2014 4:06 p.m.

​Matariki celebrations were once popular, but stopped in the 1940s. In 2000, they were revived.
In recent years awareness of the Māori language and the wider cultural traditions of Māori has greatly increased among New Zealanders.
The renaissance of this ancient Māori celebration and its traditions is a chance for all New Zealanders to remind ourselves of the very special place we occupy in the world. Exhibitions, lively festivals, concerts and cultural performances are among a growing myriad of entertaining events that take place throughout the country during the celebration of Matariki.
Matariki celebrations vary in style and timing from region to region but the underlying principle of sharing, learning, feasting and festivity is constant throughout. 

He aha tenei kupu te Matariki?
What is this celebration Matariki?

In the final days of May each year, a cluster of tiny stars twinkle as it rises on the North East horizon.
About 500 stars make up the cluster, but only seven can be seen clearly with the naked eye here in Aotearoa New Zealand. This cluster of stars remains present right through to March, when it disappears from the sky for two months, during autumn, before rising once again in the dawn sky.
To astronomers this constellation is known as Pleiades but to the Māori people of New Zealand, it is Matariki – a celestial signal of an ending and a beginning.
Matariki has two common English Translations: mata riki or ‘tiny eyes’ and mata ariki or ‘eyes of god’
While there are two translations, for Māori there is only one universal theme of Matariki.
This is the beginning of a new life cycle and the celebration of traditional Māori new year. The New Year is marked by the next new moon after the appearance of Matariki.
Various Iwi celebrate Matariki at different times. Some hold festivities when Matariki is first seen in the dawn sky; others celebrate after the full moon rises or at the beginning of the next new moon.
For all tribes, the importance of Matariki has been captured in proverbs and waiata, which link it with the bright star Whānui (Vega).
Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whānui
Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e!
Matariki re-appears, Whānui starts its flight
Being the sign of the [new] year!
Matariki is also associated with the winter solstice.
It appears when the sun, drifting north on the shortest day in winter, reaches the north-eastern end of the horizon. The sun then turns around and begins it journey south.

Ways to celebrate Matariki

There are many things you could do to mark Matariki in your own special way. Some may be based on traditional Māori ways of celebrating and some could be your own ideas.
  • Acknowledging family
  • Gift-giving
  • Conservation and respect for the environment
  • Food and feasting
  • Speak Māori – give it a go!

What’s On in Whangarei during Matariki

Find out about all the Matariki events happning around Whangarei by following the link to the Venues and Events Matariki page or the Matariki Festival on facebook.

Venues and Events - Matariki

Facebook - Matariki Festival


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