News & Insights | Celebrating Matariki!   

Celebrating Matariki!   

21 June 2022

What is Matariki?
This year Matariki is being celebrated as a public holiday for the first time in Aotearoa New Zealand, and so we asked Gus Simmonds from our Trades Team to share some mātauranga Māori (cultural knowledge) with the broader Programmed community.

At this time of year, Matariki appears in the morning sky and heralds the arrival of Te Mātahi o te Tau (Māori New Year).  Matariki is a cluster of whetu (stars) also known as Pleiades and is a sign for people to come together to remember and honour our tupuna (ancestors) and other loved ones who have passed, to celebrate the present, and to think about our aspirations for the coming year.  This is why Matariki is often called the Māori New Year.

The nine whetu (stars) of Matariki  
Mātauranga Māori teaches us that each of the whetu holds dominion over a particular part of the environment, and their individual positions within the cluster determine their influence.

Matariki: is the mother and kaiwhakahaere (conductor) who cares for and leads the whanau.

Pōhutukawa: is the oldest child and signifies wellbeing and health.  Pōhutakawa also connects us with death, and those who have passed since the last rising.  This is the reason why people would cry out the names of the dead and weep when Matariki was seen rising in the early morning.

Māori believe that when a person dies their spirit leaves their body and journeys along Te Ara Wairua to Te Rerenga Wairua at the very top of Te Ika a Maui (the North Island) where they descend the root of an ancient Pōhutukawa into Maurianuku (the underworld) – hence the name Pōhutukawa.

Tupuānuku:  is affiliated with cultivation and connects us with kai (food) from the earth (potatoes, kumara, carrots etc). The proverb ‘Hauhake tū, ka tō Matariki’ translates as ‘lifting of the crops begins when Matariki sets’ meaning that as winter nears the harvesting of crops has been completed.

Tupuārangi: is affiliated with the sky, birds or anything that grows above us and connects us with kai (food) – particularly birds, but also fruit and berries that grow high above the earth, hence the proverb ‘ka kitea a Matariki, kua maoka te hinu,’ meaning ‘when Matariki is seen the fat of the kererū (wood pigeon) is rendered so the birds can be preserved’.

Waitī: Waitī connects us with fresh water, and all of the creatures which live in the rivers, streams and lakes. The proverb ‘Ka kitea a Matariki ka rere te korokoro’ relates to the lamprey which leaves the moana in late winter and early spring and migrates up the freshwater awa to spawn. This occurs when Waitī is seen in the morning sky.

Waitā: Connects us with the ocean, and the many forms of kaimoana (fish, oysters, kina, crayfish etc.) we gather from the moana (sea). Matariki sits low on the horizon and has influence over the tides and currents.

Waipuna-ā-rangi: is associated with rain and means ‘water that pools in the sky – indicative of the heavy, persistent showers during the winter.

Ururangi: means ‘winds of the sky’ and this whetu determines the nature of the wind for the coming year).

Hiwa-i-te-rangi: is the youngest child and is the whetu that listens to you when you make a wish, think about your goals and aspirations, and plan for your future.  Hiwa-i-te-rangi is also the whetu that will bring you good fortune and faith into the new year.

How can you celebrate Matariki?
How you celebrate Matariki is up to you!  It depends on how you feel connected to your whanau, your community, and the environment.  Some great ideas are:

  1. Take some time to pause and reflect. Remember your loved ones: Think about loved ones who have passed, and connect with them by sharing stories and memories, visiting the urupa (cemetery) or wherever they are resting.
  2. Kai time! Cook kai, offer to Matariki and share a Matariki feast: Matariki is traditionally a time for whanau to gather and share kai harvested over the past seasons to nourish us for the winter.  Cook a mid-winter feast for your family or friends or share a meal with workmates or neighbours.
  3. Get airborne and build a kite: Kites soar into the sky, and flutter close to the stars so this could be a great way for you and your tamariki (children) to enjoy some time together.
  4. Practice some te reo Māori: Don’t be scared to try – it’s easier than you think, and a wonderful way to connect with others in your community.  Try ‘happy Matariki’ in te reo Māori by saying ‘Ngā mihi o Matariki, te tau hou Māori’.
  5. Cast your eyes to the skies:  If you’re an early riser, take your coffee outside while it’s still dark and look to the northeast and see if you can spot Matariki and her eight children.  If mornings aren’t for you, take a moment in the evening to look for her.
  6. Give thanks for the year that has passed: Reflect on the year that has passed. It is a good time to plan for the next year and to write down your wishes for the new year.
  • Spend time with Whanau and friends: You can all gather for a meal, grow a garden together or attend a local Matariki event. There are community events happening right across the motu that anyone can join. Check out  for public events in your rohe (region).  

With thanks to:
Gus Simmonds
Trades Team & Cultural Advisor

To find out more about Matariki visit

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