SPECIAL REPORT: Celebrating Matariki

Matariki, is the celebration of the Māori New Year and the start of te maramataka, the lunar calendar. Matariki is rich with tradition. It is the Māori name for a cluster of 9 stars, 2 of which can be hard to make out with the naked eye. In other cultures, Matariki is known by other names. The Ancient Greeks referred to it as the Pleiades, Hawaiians call them Makali'i or 'eyes of royalty', and in Japan it is Subaru, meaning 'gathered together.' Today, they are also often referred to as The Seven Sisters.

The Matariki star cluster is dominated by hot blue luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. The disappearance of Matariki in April, signals the time to gather and preserve crops. Matariki then reappears again in late June or early July, making it an important marker on the harvest calendar. Appearing in the eastern sky sometime around the shortest day of the year, the colour, size and clarity of Matariki is thought to determine how successful the harvest crop will be in the coming season. The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop is predicted to be.

Last year was an incredible highlight for all of Aotearoa with Matariki marked for the first time as an official public holiday. For Māori it is an opportunity to remember ancestors, especially those who have gone to rest among the stars. It is an important time to spend with whānau, to enjoy being connected, to collectively reflect on unfulfilled challenges, and to look towards the future with hope and forgiveness. The growth of Matariki in importance and relevance marks the continuing enlightenment and depth of understanding that New Zealanders as a whole have of the special culture that is indigenous to this land and all who call Aotearoa home.

The Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, offers a number of resources to engage children and learn more about Matariki.

  • To learn how to find Matariki, click here.
  • To test your knowledge about Matariki and Maramataka, take the quiz here.
  • To download a Matariki activity book suitable for 5-10 year olds, click here.