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Matariki - the Māori New Year

Whakataukī for Matariki – Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whānui. Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e! Matariki re-appears, Whānui starts its flight. Being the sign of the [new] year!

Matariki is the Māori name for a group of stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. The Māori New Year is marked by the rise of this star cluster and the sighting of the next new moon. In 2018, Matariki is due to begin on 6 July.

The physical appearance of Matariki in the sky was traditionally used by a tohunga (a priest or expert) as a forecast of the year ahead. Clear and bright stars signalled warm and productive seasons, and hazy or shimmering clusters meant a cold winter was coming and ground for crops was prepared accordingly.

Each iwi has their own stories and perspectives about Matariki. Today Matariki is generally seen as an important time to celebrate the earth and show respect for the land. It is also a time to acknowledge those who have passed away and plan for the year ahead. Matariki is a good opportunity for Māori communities to share their stories and culture with other New Zealanders, and many events and activities are planned throughout the country. 

Matariki and The New Zealand Curriculum

By celebrating Matariki with your students and the wider community you can bring the principles of the NZC to life, especially the Treaty of Waitangicommunity engagement, and cultural diversity. Matariki provides an opportunity for students to explore the values of diversity, community and participation, and respect for self and others. Matariki is also a useful context to promote the development of key competencies and to examine the social science concepts of cultural identity, place and environment, and continuity and change.

What can you do to celebrate?

  • Share the history and stories of Matariki with your staff and students. 
  • Build stronger connections with local iwi and hapū, and harness their knowledge of Māori language, culture, and identity.  
  • Give your students a chance to research and create their own Matariki stories to share online.
  • Host a hāngi or feast for your local community. Celebrity chef Peter Gordon has shared some cooking tips for traditional Matariki cuisine, such as Rewena bread and mayonnaise with fresh kawakawa leaves.
  • Plant trees in conservation areas, or start planning your school garden.
  • Integrate Matariki with mathematics and statistics through these NZ Maths units and activities.
  • Research what festivities are being held in your area and get involved.
    • Wellington: Te Papa hosts Matariki celebrations with a programme that includes concerts, astronomy sessions, and talks.
    • Auckland: The Matariki Festival features music performances, Kapa Haka, theatre, poetry, family events, dance, and art.
    • Dunedin: The Puaka Matariki Festival is held in Dunedin from 17 June, with celebrations and events. 
    • Whangarei: The Matariki festival Whangarei is a special celebration within Whangarei with a series of cultural events starting mid June.

We asked New Zealand teachers how they celebrate Matariki with students and community. Here's what they said:

  • We had our local astronomy club come to school with their telescopes and had an evening with our school community looking at planets and stars – Rebecca Best.
  • We are going to have a Matariki breakfast using the inspiration from Andre Ngapo and his Ready to Read story – Sez Tohill.
  • Our students host an evening for our community providing food and entertainment like kapa haka and the Matariki story in drama – Sharon Marsh.
  • We do a dawn planting followed by a community breakfast and spend the day engaged in activities about Matariki – Wendy Sheridan-Smith.
  • We have a school hangi which the children help prepare. This year we will have an art and drama focus as well – Amy Millar.

Reading resources available in your school: 

You Tube Clips

Matariki Animation
This clip is a short Matariki animation prepared for Matariki events.

Matariki Myth: Tamarereti
This clip tells the Matariki myth of Tamarereti.

Matariki star weaving
This clip explains how to weave Matariki stars out of paper strips.

Supporting websites and resources

Matariki – Ministry for Culture and Heritage
This webpage offers information about Matariki, advice on how to find Matariki in the night sky, resources, and event information.

Matariki for schools – New Zealand History
This resource includes a range of approaches and activities to help students learn about Matariki. 

Matariki – Kiwi families
This resource provides information about Matariki and ideas on how this special event can be celebrated by families.

The story of Matariki – Te Ara
This resource offers the full story of Matariki with images and a short film clip.

Matariki education resources – Te Papa
These teaching resources aim to raise your students’ awareness of Matariki. 

Matariki on wickED
In this section on wickED you can use the Matariki interactive to learn about the appearance of Matariki in our skies. This interactive can be viewed in both English and te reo Māori.

You might like ... 

What Matariki means to me
In this blog Rosalie Reiri, education facilitator, talks about the personal significance of Matariki and provides some key messages for teachers.

Updated on: 27 Apr 2018