What is Matariki and why do we celebrate it?

By MAS Team | 2 June 2022

Matariki is a public holiday in Aotearoa for the first time ever in 2022, when it is being marked on Friday 24 June. Sometimes called the Māori New Year, Matariki is a time of transition and remembrance. Find out more about this midwinter celebration and how to mark it with your whānau and friends.

What is Matariki?

Matariki is a group of stars that appears in the night sky in midwinter, and shares its name with the celebrations that take place around this time. In the traditional Māori lunar calendar, called the Maramataka, the new year begins with the first new moon after Matariki appears in the sky.

The brightest star in the cluster is called Matariki too - it’s said to be the mother of the other stars that surround it. You might have heard Matariki called the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters in English.

The rising of Matariki is traditionally a time of transition and reflection, when families get together to remember the past and prepare for the future. The next season’s crops were influenced by the appearance of the star cluster too - a clear and bright Matariki meant a successful season with planting starting in September, and if the stars were hazy was a warning that cold days were on the way and crops shouldn’t be planted until October.

When is Matariki?

Not all iwi mark Matariki at the same time - some start the festivities on the first full moon after Matariki appears in the sky, while others don’t mark it until the next new moon. Its calendar date shifts every year too, but it’s normally in June or July.

The festivities are typically celebrated between late June and mid-July, depending on where in the country you are.

In 2022, Matariki is being celebrated as a public holiday for the first time, on Friday 24 June. 

How do we celebrate Matariki?

Traditionally, Matariki was a time when food stores had been built up, which meant more free time for whānau and communities to spend together. People would get together to share kai, kōrero, ceremony and entertainment, and look forward to the new year ahead.

There are Matariki celebrations, events, exhibitions and workshops happening all around Aotearoa this year, so have a look at what your city or town is hosting.

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