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Matariki: A time of reflection & renewal

Matariki: A time of reflection & renewal

New Zealand comes together in celebration of a special public holiday this Friday, 28th June. We gather to honour Matariki, the revered Māori New Year, a time deeply rooted in the heart of Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand).
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Matariki marks the mesmerising & beautiful rise of the Matariki star cluster, also known as the Pleiades, painting the pre-dawn sky with its celestial brilliance. This celebration not only signals the start of the Māori lunar calendar but also embodies a profound cultural heritage that enriches our country.

In 2022, Matariki was officially recognised in New Zealand as a public holiday, ensuring it will always hold a special place in our national celebration.

I feel genuinely privileged to live in a country that celebrates & wholeheartedly recognises the significant cultural celebrations of our indigenous people. The essence of Matariki welcomes everyone to participate in the festivities, building connections & fostering a sense of unity & belonging. As Matariki dawns upon us, typically gracing our skies in late June or early July, it offers a reflective moment for all who call Aotearoa home to embrace & cherish the rich, heartwarming traditions of our indigenous people, the Māori.

Māori mythology enchants us with the beautiful and heartbreaking tale of Matariki, short for 'Ngā mata o te ariki Tāwhirimātea' (The eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea). Tāwhirimātea, the god of winds and weather, unleashed his fury against his brothers, who plotted and & eventually succeeding in separating his parents, Ranginui (the sky father), and Papatūānuku (the earth mother). Tāwhirimātea was finally defeated by his brother Tūmatauenga, the god of warfare and humanity. In his last act of defiance, vowing never to let his brothers forget, he clawed out his eyes in anger and grief at what they had done, crushed them into shards, & threw them into the heavens. He warned them that he would continue to seek vengeance, & as a reminder, whenever they looked up at their father Ranginui, his eyes would look down at them and remind them of their cruel deeds.

Matariki – Mānawatia a Matariki (

The richness of this storytelling gives us the grounding & knowledge to embrace Matariki as a time for wānanga (learning), whanaungatanga (community), & reflection. This is also intertwined with the cultural tapestry based on the appreciation of whakapapa, which relates to the interconnectedness of all living things & the importance of family & community.

As a united community, we band together to honour the spirit of Matariki, which encourages us to:

  • Remember the past:Gathering our whānau (family) to remember those who have passed away to honour & celebrate their lives.
  • Celebrate the present:As communities, we celebrate the harvest & the achievements of the past year.
  • Plan for the future:It’s a chance to set intentions & make plans for the coming year, embracing new opportunities & challenges.

    As we look skyward just before dawn breaks this Friday, the closest Friday to a new moon following the rising of the Matariki cluster, I will try to pick out all nine stars to acknowledge, show gratitude, & celebrate their existence.

    1. Matariki: The mother of the cluster, associated with health & wellbeing.
    2. Pōhutukawa: Connected to those who have passed away, representing remembrance.
    3. Tupuānuku: Associated with food grown on the earth, representing the bounty of the soil.
    4. Tupuārangi: Linked to food from the sky, such as birds, representing the bounty of the forests.
    5. Waitī: Connected to freshwater bodies and the food that comes from them, such as eels & fish.
    6. Waitā: Associated with the ocean & seafood, representing the bounty of the sea.
    7. Waipuna-ā-Rangi: Linked to the rain, representing the waters that sustain us.
    8. Ururangi: Connected to the winds, representing weather patterns & conditions.
    9. Hiwa-i-te-Rangi: The youngest star, representing our hopes, dreams, & aspirations for the future.

    Bringing our whānau (family) & friends together, we can plan many fun & meaningful ways to celebrate Matariki:

    • Stargazing: Wake up early to see the Matariki star cluster in the sky. It’s a beautiful way to connect with nature & start the Māori New Year. Have a list of the stars of Matariki so you & your tamariki (children) can find & name them.
    • Whānau Time: Spend quality time with your family, sharing stories, playing games, & reflecting on the past year. This strengthens family bonds & keeps traditions alive, which is a wonderful lesson to teach your children.
    • Kai (Food): Prepare a feast using seasonal produce. Include traditional Māori foods, such as kūmara (sweet potato) & kaimoana (seafood), to honour the harvest season. Share your cultural roots with your children by adding your own flavours or if you would like to try some authentic Māori dishes, here is a link to children friendly foods. Authentic Māori Food Recipes: Explore Culinary Delights (
    • Planting: Engage in planting activities to symbolise new beginnings. This could be in your garden or as part of a community project. Feeling the earth you can connect with Papatūānuku (the earth mother) & retell the story of Matariki.

    By participating in these activities, we can create wonderful memories and help preserve and celebrate Māori culture.

    Let us honour Māori culture, connect with family & embrace values of unity, reflection, and renewal. As Matariki becomes an important part of our national calendar, it enriches the cultural fabric of Aotearoa & offers a special opportunity for everyone to join in this beautiful tradition.

    "Ngā mihi o Matariki, te tau hou Māori".

    Sofia 🩷

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