Have you learnt about Matariki at school lately? That’s right: 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. You heard me, 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 01st each year! I mean, who doesn’t love a good old New Year’s celebration?
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 harvested 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 practised today, however, there are many new ways also. Most celebrations focus on 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 an 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 has already fallen this year, but it isn’t too late to treat it as your fresh start and make some new resolutions. Get out there, set some goals, and get celebrating! Who knows, maybe next year you will be able to do this on an official day off school!
Critical Thinking Questions:
1. Why is Matariki particularly important for our NZ Nation?
2. Should we all celebrate, just those who choose to, or just Maori people?
3. How long has Matariki been celebrated for?
Practical thinking Questions:
1. Go back and look at your calendar/camera roll and see what you were doing on 15th June. Were you celebrating Matariki? If not, book it in for next year!
2. Think of an awesome way Matariki could be celebrated at school?
3. Do you think we should have a public holiday for Matariki? If so, get out there and right a letter/give a call to your Local MP explaining why!