Aotearoa New Zealand’s newest public holiday is on the horizon: but what does Matariki really mean in te ao Māori, how can we make it more than just an extra day off—and what does it have to do with native trees?
1. Dig in
The rise of the Matariki star cluster is really significant in the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar). The moon cycles associated with Matariki show us that the time to harvest has ended, and the time to plant is here. The ideology of planting and new life also runs strongly through traditional Matariki celebrations.
We’re very excited to be able to invite Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland locals to a native planting event to celebrate Matariki on Sunday 26 June: sign up here. If you’re in another region, you can check our Facebook page to see if there are upcoming planting events in your area, and make a Matariki commitment to plant later in the season.
2. Establish your roots
It’s easy to get educated about Matariki—we’re very lucky to have rangatira (leaders) who are sharing amazing content about what Matariki is and why we celebrate. You can dig as deep or as shallow as you like, but maybe just start with a Google search!
We recommend Te Ara’s guides, Hahana_official’s amazing TikTok videos, the Matariki activity ideas available on many websites, and finishing up with this Matariki quiz from Te Papa to test your knowledge.
3. Soak up the nutrients
Listening and singing can also be part of your learning process: the Matariki star Tupu-ā-rangi is known for her beautiful voice and love for songs. Listen to this excellent podcast by Dr Rangi Matamua, treat yourself to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra playing Ngā Hihi o Matariki on Radio New Zealand, revisit some waiata (songs) you remember from school on YouTube, or learn some new ones!
4. Learn from the past, grow for the future
Matariki, like the Pākeha New Year, is a time for reflecting on the past and planning for the future. The star Pōhutukawa encourages us to remember those who have passed: while the star Hiwa-i-te-Rangi guards our dreams and aspirations for the coming year. Our friends at Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori Māori Language Commission can help you learn a kaikōhau (expression of hope) to express your desires for the coming year.
5. Share your bounty with others
If there are friends or whānau you’re not able to spend time with in person this Matariki, a lovely way to honour them, or remind them that you’re thinking of them, is to send a Matariki native tree gift. You can send them an email certificate, and we’ll make sure the native tree is planted and cared for in their name. We’ve designed a special gift certificate in te Reo Māori that features the Matariki star cluster as well as unfurling kāponga fronds to signify new life. You could also use this as a way to encourage someone else to learn more about Matariki, just as you have—or it’s a lovely way to participate in Matariki planting if you can’t physically attend an event.