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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. Contrary to popular belief, there are nine stars in the Matariki constellation instead of seven. The Māori New Year is marked by the rise of this star cluster and the sighting of the next new moon. In 2017, Matariki is due to begin on 25 June.

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 community engagement, cultural diversity, the Treaty of Waitangi, and inclusion. 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 25-day 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.

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 resource – Te Papa
This unit of work aims to raise your students’ awareness of Matariki. It was written in 2014 and is designed for both early childhood and primary students.

Te Papa blog
The blog posts on this page explore Matariki, offering practical ideas on how to celebrate the Māori New Year with your students.

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.

Te Iwa o Matariki – Nine stars of Matariki
This article from Mana magazine explains the nine stars of Matariki, looking at the significance of each star individually.

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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: 24 May 2017


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