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Matariki resource

Who doesn’t love a holiday? Or a day off school?

It’s usually pretty awesome. You might have seen here on Kiwi Kids that Jacinda Arden’s Labour government has proposed to make a new public holiday in celebration of Matariki. But there is a whole lot more to this public
holiday than just a day off school.

If you don’t know, Matariki is the Maori celebration of the start of the New Year. The name Matariki means the “eyes of god” or “tiny eyes” and refers to a cluster of stars. Although there are different myths about the origins of Matariki, one Maori story is that Ranginui, the father of the sky and Papatūānuku, were separated by their children and Rangunui became so angry he tore his own eyes out and tossed them into the sky; creating Matariki.

The cluster of stars appears in the sky around the last few days of May. It is believed that the brighter the stars are, the more successful the harvested crop will be for the next season.

Matariki is traditionally celebrated by gathering with one’s family, reflecting on the past and remembering those who have passed away. Usually, offerings for good crops are made to land-based gods and new trees
were planted to signal new beginnings.

In a statement about making Matariki a holiday, Jacinda Arden said “As New Zealanders we are proud of who we are, what we stand for, and the way we weave together different worlds and cultures to create our unique national identity.”

Do you have any interesting facts about Matariki? Let us know in the comments below

Have you learnt about Matariki at school lately?

Matariki, the group of seven stars known as the Pleiades star cluster. Matariki appears annually and is believed to mark the beginning of the Maori New Year. The beginning of an entirely new year for the native people of New Zealand! So why is this important and beautiful celebration passed by every year without much notice by the general Kiwi public?

As a nation, we should be celebrating this day, just as we celebrate January 1st each year. I mean, who doesn’t love a good old New Year’s celebration? Who wouldn’t want to celebrate twice?

However, before I get into too far deep into this debate, let me quickly explain what Matariki is! Some people think of Matariki as a mother star with six daughters, often referred to as the Seven Sisters. Others think that Matariki are the ‘eyes of the god’. Matariki appears in the eastern sky sometime around the shortest day of the year, and is thought to determine how successful the harvest crop will be in the coming season. The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop will be.

Traditionally Matariki was celebrated by gathering with whanau and reflecting on the past. The connection to the stars provided an opportunity for families to remember their whakapapa and those ancestors who had passed away to the heavens. Offerings were made to land-based gods who would help provide good crops, and new trees were planted to signal new beginnings. Many of these celebrations are still practiced today, however there are many new ways also. Most celebrations focus around music, song, dance, food and family. To me, it seems that Matariki is an amazing opportunity for Maori to share their stories and culture with the wider community, and I would love to see more events and activities planned throughout the country to share and celebrate Matariki.

We could celebrate this important day so much better. Personally, I see it as a big mistake that the NZ Government did not pass a bill in 2009 that proposed a public holiday to mark Matariki. The bill suggested Matariki be recognised as a national holiday, but was rejected in Parliament, which is a shame for such a worthy issue. Matariki is an opportunity for us to have a unique and somewhat home-grown holiday. It would provide opportunity for an increase in awareness surrounding Matariki, with people celebrating up and down the country.

Our country was built upon the Maori people and their culture, it seems unfair that we do not recognise the very beginning of their New Year with more significance. Matariki is falling in a week’s time this year. You have just enough time to prepare a feast, prepare a party, even just prepare a moment of joy and respect. That’s what Kiwi Kids do.  

Critical Thinking Questions:

  • Why is Matariki particularly important for our NZ Nation?
  • Should we all celebrate, just those who choose to, or just Maori people?
  • How long has Matariki been celebrated for?

Practical thinking Questions:

  • Go back and look at your calendar/camera roll and see what you were doing on 15th June last year. Were you celebrating Matariki? Either way, make sure to book it in for this year!
  • Think of an awesome way Matariki could be celebrated at school?
  • Do you think we should have a public holiday for Matariki? If so, get out there and write a letter/give a call to your Local MP explaining why!

The date of Matariki varies from year to year. Generally it falls within the last few days of May or in June.

This year Matariki falls on the 18th June. Below are the dates for Matariki for the next few years.

2014 Pipiri 28 June
2015 Pipiri 18 June
2016 Pipiri 06 June
2017 Pipiri 25 June
2018 Pipiri 15 June
2019 Pipiri 05 June
2020 Pipiri 22 June


Matariki is celebrated in a variety of ways.
This important event in New Zealand is becoming more popular with schools, community organisations and local councils. 
Because Matariki was the optimum time for new harvests, often plants or new trees are planted within communities.
Matariki is also seen as a perfect time to learn about the land we live on and to remember whakapapa (ancestry) who have passed from this world to the next and the legacy they left behind.

Matariki can be seen just before dawn around the winter solstice.

We have some detailed instructions at the bottom of the page or you can watch this video.

The best place to see it is on a slightly elevated position. 

Follow these steps and see if you can find Matariki.

1. If you are in New Zealand you must first find The Pot or Tautoru.

2. To the right of Tautoru you will find Takurua or Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. A clue that you found it is its bluish tint  it’s a blue giant.

3. From Takurua you just draw a straight line towards your left through the bottom of the pot. Following this line, you will first find a group of stars shaped like a cone called  Hyades or Taumatakuku.

4. Look further to the left in the same direction and you will see Matariki.