This year (24th June 2022) marks the first time the Matariki celebration is being formally and legally recognised, making it the country’s first Indigenous public holiday. From sound baths to Matariki feasts with friends and family, here’s everything you need to know to better celebrate and appreciate the day.
On Matariki Day last Friday, Green Is The New Black was invited for a little sneak peek of Grammy award-winning indigenous instrumentalist Jerome Kavanagh’s compositions that drew upon the kīwaha ‘te hau kāinga’ (the winds of home) and Taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments).
Co-organised by Tourism New Zealand and Space 2B, the immersive sound bath opened fresh doors of presence and harmony, with frequencies that brought the body and mind to a space away from the nervous system’s response of fight-or-flight.
The composition is an ode to Tawhirimātea (god of wind and weather). The wind that passes through these traditional instruments in the practice demonstrates a deep connection to the environment and is a symbolic call to people to come home, gather, reconnect and reflect with whānau and loved ones, and enjoy the celebration of Matariki together.
We would love for you to join us for this delightful reset: celebrate Matariki Day by tuning into this Spotify playlist put together by Tourism New Zealand. Meditate to it, read to it, sleep to it—whichever you’re inclined to—you’ll see what we mean.
And now, onto more exciting reasons and ways to celebrate this historic day…
IMAGE: Starry skies during Matariki (taken by Mark Russell)
Matariki is the Māori name for a cluster of stars also known as Pleiades. The constellation is visible from New Zealand for eleven months of the year, but disappears from the skies for a month in winter, reappearing in mid-June, around the time of the winter solstice. Its rising is recognised by many iwi [tribes] as the beginning of a new year. The holiday centres on three principles: remembrance of those who have died, celebrating the present with family and friends; and looking to the future promise of a new year. It is believed to be one of the first Indigenous celebrations to be recognised as a public holiday in a settler-colonial state.
“I think it’s incredibly significant,” says Olive Karena-Lockyer (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Raukawa) an astronomy educator at Stardome observatory. “It’s from here, from Aotearoa. It’s not imported, like Christmas or Easter or the Queen’s birthday,” she says. “It’s for us and what is relevant to our environment.”
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Maruia River Retreat Accommodation
Matariki is not for sale
While it’s possible this is meeting the global eye more widely now, let’s not forget that Indigenous people have always been embodying harmony, and to say that a new state-passed public holiday validates them further would be a disservice to their presence and vast contribution to our environment. They have always existed and will continue to persist and resist.
Crucially, their knowledge recreates climate action and understanding: Speaking at a dawn ceremony on Friday, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said, “It’s about making the connections and understanding that there are connections between what the sky is doing, what the land is doing, and what the sea is doing. If you can understand those environments, then you’ll understand what you should be doing within it.”
The rise of Matariki has seen some controversy in New Zealand. Māori cultural advisers and academics have warned businesses not to commercialise the holiday. This month, Tātou, a Māori cultural communications agency, launched a campaign called “Matariki is not for sale”.
The holiday also meant some disagreement over appropriate ways to celebrate: some city councils went ahead with fireworks displays, after being warned by cultural advisers it was inappropriate. (This bears repeating: respecting Indigenous rights and culture is non-negotiable! If such measures don’t strive to shift the material reality of Indigenous people and their marginalisation, what use are they?)
Beautiful beginning for our new public holiday: Matariki over Tararua Range and Petone at 6.20am
I understand the unusual sunrise glow is partly due to particles from Tonga’s eruption (in January) floating high in the atmosphere. They catch sun earlier when rest of sky is darker pic.twitter.com/n07lpTBcxn
— SeánDG (@SeanDG) June 23, 2022
How and where to celebrate Maori New Year
Closely connected with the maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), the reappearance of the Matariki stars in the early morning sky brings the past year to a close and marks the beginning of the new year. Mātauranga Māori (ancestral knowledge and wisdom) is at the heart of celebrations of the Matariki public holiday and is the time for:
> Remembrance – Honouring those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki
> Celebrating the present – Gathering together to give thanks for what we have
> Looking to the future – Looking forward to the promise of a new year
Traditionally, Matariki festivities included lighting ritual fires, making offerings and various celebrations to farewell the dead, honour ancestors and celebrate life. Nowadays, people all across Aotearoa come together to remember their ancestors, share (kai) food, sing songs, tell stories and play music. Matariki is about reconnecting with your home and whānau (family).
Today there are many ways to acknowledge the Māori New Year and observe the rising of Matariki:
> Take time to remember loved ones who are no longer with you
> Give thanks for the year that has passed
> Enjoy a Matariki feast together
> Plan for the next year
> Spend time with family and friends
> Write down your wishes for the year
> Plan to grow a garden
FEATURED IMAGE: Grammy Award-winning indigenous instrumentalist Jerome Kavanagh standing outside with a beautiful sky
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