All About Matariki

The stars of Matariki

Matariki has deservedly become more mainstream over the past decade, with much more about it being taught at Primary School in particular. Whether you want to keep up with the kids or help them learn about this significant time of year, we’ve got a little summary for you. 

Where does the name come from? 

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades that rises in mid-winter. 

How to spot the Matariki stars

Luckily, therse are one of the  star clusters nearest to Earth, which means it’s possible to see with the naked eye. To find them, look to the northeast horizon before sunrise.

Then, search for the distinct line of stars that forms Tautoru, or Orion’s belt. Keep moving your gaze north of these three stars until you see a cluster of tiny stars that are roughly as wide as Tautoru is long. These are the Matariki stars.

Is there a Māori legend behind Matariki?

Yes, in fact there are different stories about Matariki, but one Māori myth is that when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens – creating Matariki.

What does Matariki signify in Aotearoa? 

The rise of Matariki in the winter skies is an important time in the Māori calendar – it signifies Māori New Year. Historically, new year celebrations provided the opportunity for whānau to come together to acknowledge the year gone by, prepare and plan for the year ahead; to celebrate with kai, kōrero, ceremony and entertainment. 

Was It always celebrated by all New Zealanders?

No. For a time, it was only acknowledged by iwi, but today everyone in Aotearoa has the opportunity to celebrate the unique and beautiful place we live in and show respect for the land we live on through Matariki events. 

Is Matariki a Public Holiday in New Zealand

Not yet. However from 2022 it will be! Yay! The first Matariki public holiday will be held on Friday 24 June 2022 and – similar to Easter – the date of the public holiday will shift each year but will most likely always fall between June and July.

What does each of the Matariki Stars represent?

Pōhutukawa

Pōhutukawa is the star that serves as a reminder of those who have passed on, encouraging us to take the time to remember them and acknowledge their impact on our lives. 

Tupuānuku

Tupuānuku (“tupu” means ‘to grow’ and “nuku” is the shortened version of “Papatuanuku” meaning ‘Earth’) is the star connected with everything that grows in the ground to be harvested or gathered for food.

Tupuārangi

Tupuārangi is the star associated with food sources that come from the sky, such as birds, or fruit and berries from trees.

Waitī

Waitī is connected with all freshwater bodies and the food sources sustained by those waters. Waitī watches over freshwater environments such as awa (rivers), roto (lakes), kūkūwai (wetlands), and waipuna (springs).

Waitā

Waitā represents the ocean and the seafood that can be harvested from it. This star encourages us to respect our coasts, oceans and marine life. 

Waipuna-ā-Rangi:

Waipuna-ā-Rangi is connected with rain, hail and snow.

Ururangi

Ururangi is connected with the various winds.

Hiwa-i-te-Rangi

Hiwa-i-te-Rangi is a wishing star, helping us to realise our hopes and aspirations for the coming year. 

Here are some great short videos to learn about Matariki:

More on Matariki from Tots to Teens:

Six Stories About Matariki To Read With Your Kids

Matariki Events For Your Family

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