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May 2022 Issue
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A New Year celebration for Aotearoa

Look to the north-eastern horizon to view Matariki.

How to view the Matariki star cluster and celebrate the holiday. By Dr Pauline Harris

Matariki is the star cluster that heralds the Māori New Year. Some iwi recognise the start of the new year at slightly different times but, with all, ceremony, reflection and celebration are significant at this time of the year. 

In 2021, the Government announced that an official public holiday to celebrate Matariki would be held on June 24, 2022. This date will change each year. 

Professor Rangi Mātāmua led an expert group in determining the key values and principles of the holiday – remembrance, celebrating the present and honouring the future – and when it would be celebrated. 

The reappearance of Matariki in the north-eastern horizon is part of a celestial, environmental and ecological calendar system called Maramataka. Using the heliacal risings of stars, or stars that are rising just before dawn, along with indicators such as animal behaviour and plant flowering or ripening, can help determine the time of year. 

There are nine stars in Matariki: the mother, Matariki, and her children, Waitī, Waitā, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Ururangi, Waipunā-ā-rangi, Hiwa-i-te-rangi and Pōhutukawa. These stars represent different parts of the natural world – freshwater, saltwater, the forest, wind and rain. Some stars represent hopes, dreams and those who have died. 

To see Matariki, get up well before dawn and   head to a place where there’s a clear view of the eastern horizon. Matariki is not a bright cluster, but it glistens beautifully in the night sky. And whilst looking at Matariki, remember those who have passed, celebrate the present and honour the future. 

– Dr Pauline Harris is of Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Rakaipaka and Ngāti Kahungunu descent and is a senior lecturer at Victoria University’s ​​Centre for Science in Society.