Matariki is the Maori New Year.
It is when the star cluster known as “The Pleiades” (or M45), rises in the north-east of New Zealand.
The Matariki legend.
According to tradition, Matariki has two meanings – tiny eyes or it is also sometimes called Mata ariki – the eyes of god.
Maori legend tells of a time when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother, were forcibly separated by their children.
The god of the winds, Tawhirimatea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens, where they have been in existence ever since.
The precise date of Matariki also depends on the moon, (i.e. the next new moon after the appearance Matariki), which is why Matariki does not have a fixed date!
Traditionally, it is a time of celebration; a time to prepare for the year ahead, and a time to reflect and learn from the past. It is a time for sharing and being with family.
Since it is the time when all crops have been harvested, it was an important signal to the Maori people that they needed to be prepared with sufficient preserved food stocks to last them through to the next harvest.
Matariki was also a time of ceremonial offering to the land gods Rongo (the god of cultivated food, especially the kumara [sweet potato], which was a staple food for Maori), and Uenuku (the god of rainbows), in the hope of a good harvest in the year to come.
Today, the tradition of Matariki continues and is very much alive!
Concerts, festivals, exhibitions, and cultural displays are among the many events that take place throughout New Zealand during the celebration of Matariki. Some of the performances in Auckland can be found on the Matariki Festival website.