About Matariki – The Māori New Year

According to the Maramataka the reappearance of Matariki brings the old lunar year to a close and marks the beginning of the new year.

In short, it is the Māori new year.

What is Matariki?

Matariki is an abbreviation of ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea’ (‘The Eyes of the God Tāwhirimātea’) and refers to a large cluster of stars, also known as the Pleiades. The stars rise in midwinter, and for many Māori it is a time that heralds the start of the Māori new year.

Like the New Year that we’ve always celebrated, Matariki signals a time to remember those who have passed, celebrate the present and plan for the future. It’s a time to spend with whānau and friends – to enjoy kai (food) and waiata (song).

However, in the past not all iwi celebrate at the same time. Some may begin festivities on the first full moon after the star cluster rises, or on the next new moon. Regardless of this, for the first time in New Zealand (Aotearoa) we will officially be celebrated Matariki with an official public holiday in Aotearoa New Zealand in April, with the first celebration on Friday the 24th of June 2022.

This is the first time it’s been formally marked as a national public holiday and to recognise Matariki as the first national holiday specifically recognising mātauranga Māori, the legislation was drafted in both te reo Māori and English.

Finding Matariki In The Morning Night Sky

The rising of Matariki is observed in the month of Pipiri – around June and July – in the morning sky during the lunar phases of Tangaroa, the last quarter phase of the moon.

Find the constellation Tautoru or Orion’s belt (often called ‘the pot’). Trace a line northwards from the three stars of Tautoru and look for a faint sparkle of tiny dots which is about the same width as Tautoru is long.

This is the Matariki star cluster.

Matariki can also be seen during the summer months in this location of the sky after sunset.

Mānawa maiea te putanga o Matariki
To honour or celebrate Matariki when it rises in the sky

Let’s Acknowledge The Māori New Year

We’ve had a tough start to the year and therefore Matariki gives us another chance to look back at our past, and look forward to the future. There are many different ways you can acknowledge the Māori New Year and observe the rising of Matariki.

Here are a list of suggestions:

  • Take time to remember loved ones who are no longer with us
  • Give thanks for the year that has passed – even the not such great parts
  • Plan for the year ahead and write down your wishes for the year (including financial plans)
  • Plan your garden and be ready to plant
  • Celebrate – always celebrate and have a Matariki feast and spend time with family and friends

It doesn’t matter if you are Māori or any other Kiwi, this is a day that we should make an effort to understand and celebrate. Matariki gives us an opportunity to have another reset and in 2022 we could probably all do with a mid-year time to reflect and look forward.

Enjoy Matariki 2022 and the year ahead.