Matariki: Embracing New Traditions and Cultural Connections

Matariki: Embracing New Traditions and Cultural Connections

Matariki, the Māori New Year, is a celestial event celebrated in Aotearoa (New Zealand) that marks the rising of the Pleiades star cluster. It is a time of celebration, reflection, connection, and the beginning of a new cycle, fostering a deeper appreciation for Māori culture and traditions. The recent revival of Matariki in Aotearoa has introduced many to ancient Māori traditions, offering a fresh perspective and a renewed way of experiencing the world.

While some of us grew up with Matariki celebrations deeply rooted in our whānau, others are embarking on a journey of discovery and forging new connections to this significant event. Regardless of where you are in your Matariki journey, the beauty lies in the opportunity to embrace this celestial event and create unique traditions that resonate with your whānau.

Each year, our understanding of Matariki deepens, and we eagerly immerse ourselves in its rich cultural significance. The process of learning about Matariki is a spiritual experience as we uncover its stories, customs, and rituals. Just as every family has their distinct way of celebrating Christmas, it is heartwarming to witness how individuals, whānau, iwi and hapū embrace Matariki celebrations, creating special memories and traditions of their own. The journey of discovery brings us closer to the essence of Matariki and strengthens our connection to Māori culture.

For me, Matariki is synonymous with being surrounded by cherished ones in our lives. The laughter of little cousins playing, the conversations among siblings and parents, the aromas of a shared feast — these are the moments that make my heart full. Our Matariki celebrations are an opportunity to come together, connect, and enjoy each other's company. As the evening unfolds, we share reflections from the past year, pay respects to those who have passed and share stories about them, and speak our aspirations for the year ahead. These new cherished traditions create a sense of belonging and strengthen our connection with our Māoritanga.

While our journey with Matariki is still evolving, I am already touched by the profound enrichment it has brought to our lives. This celestial event encourages us to prioritise quality time with our loved ones, fostering deeper connections and building lasting memories. Whether it's through storytelling, stargazing, crafting, or sharing a special delicacy like fry bread, Matariki provides opportunities to infuse our lives with Māori culture and celebrate the beauty of our shared heritage.

As we reflect on our Matariki experiences, we also look ahead and contemplate the traditions we want to carry on in our whānau for years to come. Although I carry sentiments of grief from not having these experiences sooner during my upbringing, I am excited we have this unique opportunity for our whānau to forge new traditions that reflect our values and aspirations. For some, it may be the significance of certain foods and recipes, attending events, or specific activities. For others, it may be engaging in acts of service, connecting with nature, or practicing mindfulness. Each tradition holds the power to foster a deeper appreciation for Matariki. I encourage you to learn from and listen to experts in Māori astronomy to help guide your decisions when creating these traditions.

If you are wanting to learn more about Matariki, there is a wealth of resources available online. Professor Rangi Mātāmua (Tūhoe) is a pioneering Māori scholar known for his groundbreaking research on Māori astronomy and Matariki. He has contributed significantly to mātauranga Māori and is renowned for his accessible approach in communicating his research to diverse audiences. As the author of "Matariki: The Star of the Year" and the presenter of the web series "Living by the Stars," Professor Mātāmua has challenged misconceptions and connected people with the Māori lunar calendar (maramataka). Explore more about Matariki and Professor Rangi Mātāmua's insights on his website here.

A few more useful resources:

Matariki is a time of celebration, reflection, and connection. Whether you are well-versed in Matariki traditions or just starting your journey, remember that every step you take to embrace this special occasion is an opportunity for growth and enrichment. As we continue to explore and create meaningful traditions, let us celebrate the diversity of our experiences and the unity of our shared commitment to Matariki and maramataka Māori. Together, we can ensure that Matariki shines brightly in the lives of our whānau for generations to come.

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