June 14 - Matariki Brings Out Our Best

Matariki was June 18 this year. Around the country, we responded with icy ocean dips, waiata and waka ama. Where has Matariki come from, and why have we embraced it?

All cultures and civilisations celebrate the stars.  The seven stars in the Taurus constellation appearing for New Zealand at this time of year are known as Pleiades or Seven Sisters to Europeans. It says a lot about our identity that we are a Pacific nation with Greek-named stars imprinted on our psyche. Of course, the stars have Maori names too, and the central of those seven stars is called Matariki.

For the 800-odd years Maori have been in NZ, Matariki has been a time to plant and to remember those who passed away in the previous year.

Celebrated for centuries, Matariki has become several things today. Matariki remains a portal to a simpler past when food and stars were appreciated more.  Matariki serves as a midwinter Christmas, satisfying our bicultural needs. Around Whangarei we include things like the Matariki Markets at Quarry Arts Centre, Onerahi’s Dawn Ceremony, and the Matariki Whanau Festival in the Town Basin this Saturday.  Most importantly, Matariki is by Kiwis, for Kiwis.