Matariki

Page 1 – Introduction

For many New Zealanders, 31 December means parties and celebrations to welcome the New Year. These celebrations are an important way of marking the passage of time as well as heralding new beginnings.

Depending on your religion or ethnicity, New Year can come at different times of the year and be celebrated in many ways. For example, there is the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, the Muslim month of Muharram, and Rosh Hashanah, one of the most important religious holidays in the Jewish calendar. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means the ‘head of the year’.

Māori also have their own New Year, which is marked by the rise of Matariki (the group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster or The Seven Sisters) and the sighting of the next new moon. Like Chinese New Year (and the Christian festival of Easter), its exact timing varies from year to year, but it usually occurs during the month of June. Traditionally, Matariki was used to determine the coming season's crop. A warmer season, and therefore a more productive crop yield, was indicated by how bright the stars were.

Matariki provides an ideal opportunity to explore the ways that people pass on and sustain aspects of their culture and heritage. The beginning of the 21st century has seen a revival in Matariki celebrations. It is becoming an increasingly important part of the New Zealand calendar. Some have compared Matariki to the American holiday of Thanksgiving or Halloween. In 2016 Matariki begins on 6 June.

Schools could adopt a cross-curriculum focus for the duration of Matariki. Some suggested approaches and activities have been included here, beginning with a general look at how we measure time.

How to cite this page

'Matariki for schools', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/matariki-maori-new-year, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-May-2016