Embracing Matariki: Celebrating Māori Culture and New Zealand’s Heritage

June 25, 2024

Matariki is the celebration of the Maori New Year in new Zealand-Aotearoa

‘Matariki ahunga nui’ (Matariki provider of plentiful food). This Māori whakataukī (proverb) stems from the association of Matariki with crops and a bountiful harvest.

New Zealand’s native mānuka tree and mānuka honey are part of the rich cultural tapestry of New Zealand-Aotearoa (Aotearoa is the Māori name for New Zealand). One of the most important celebrations of our heritage is Matariki, a national holidaywhich signifies the Māori New Year, and holds a place of deep significance in our calendar, marked by the appearance of the Matariki star cluster in the winter skies.

Matariki is, known around the world by names such as Pleiades, Subaru (Japan), the 7 Sisters, mǎo (China), Krittika (India) and many more. It symbolizes not just the start of a new year but a time of renewal and reflection. This celestial event resonates across the Pacific Ocean, underscoring its importance in Māori and Pacific culture for millennia. Today, Matariki continues to be a unifying force, bringing communities together to celebrate unity and identity.

Traditionally, Matariki was a time of spiritual significance. It was a period to honor ancestors, releasing their spirits to join the stars and reflecting on the past year’s harvest with gratitude. Feasting and sharing the bounty of land and sea with loved ones were integral to these festivities, echoing themes of gratitude and unity that persist in modern celebrations.

Dr. Rangi Mātāmua beautifully captures the essence of Matariki as a time for remembrance, celebration, and hope for the future. It serves as a poignant reminder to cherish the memories of those who have passed, celebrate the present with gratitude, and eagerly anticipate the promise of the coming year.

As we commemorate Matariki, we invite you to join us in embracing the spirit of unity and celebration that defines this special time in New Zealand’s cultural calendar.