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Aotearoa celebrates Matariki

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Aotearoa (New Zealand) celebrated Matariki, the Māori New Year, with special events and festivities across the country.

The rising of the Matariki star cluster heralds Te Mātahi o te Tau, a time to remember those who have passed and to plan for the year ahead. Te Rā Aro ki a Matariki (Matariki Observance Day) fell on Friday, June 28 this year.

Matariki commemorations began before dawn around the country, with the national observance held at Treble Cone near Wānaka. Hosted by Ngāi Tahu, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was among those who attended. The holiday was celebrated with karakia (prayers) and the hautapu ceremony, marking the significance of this cultural event.

Dr. Rangi Mātāmua, known as the “Man behind Matariki,” expressed excitement about the spread of the Matariki public holiday across the Pacific. He recently visited Tahiti to share how Aotearoa celebrates Matariki. Tahiti announced its inaugural Matari’i public holiday, to be observed on November 20 next year.

This year’s theme for Matariki is “Matariki Heri Kai”—the Feast of Matariki. It encourages people to think about their food and the environment it comes from. As Professor Rangi Mātāmua said, “One of the great unifiers of people is food.”

Different iwi (tribes) celebrate Te Mātahi o te Tau at different times, depending on local environmental and geographic markers. For example, in Taranaki, people look to Puanga (Rigel) as the star heralding the new year, due to Mt. Taranaki obscuring the view of the Matariki stars.

In Ōtautahi (Christchurch), the Tīrama Mai festival is lighting up the city every night from 5 pm to 10 pm until June 30. The festival features illuminated artworks, musical soundscapes, lightboxes, and interactive installations.

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