9 ways to celebrate Matariki in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

Matariki is a time to come together with loved ones, enjoy kai and reflect on the year that passed.

  • Author

    Hēmi Kelly
  • Last updated

    Jun 2024
  • Time to read

    5 mins

What is Matariki?

The rising of the nine-star constellation Matariki, also known as the Pleiades or ‘the seven sisters', in late June or early July signals the start of the Māori New Year and the beginning of festivities across Aotearoa. Whether you're looking for family-friendly activities or solo endeavours, here are nine ways to celebrate Matariki in Auckland. 

1. Come together

Spend time with your loved ones at home or out and about. 

Matariki is one of the closer star constellations to Earth and is easily visible to the naked eye. Māori recognise nine stars in the cluster, each with a name and special significance. 

Matariki is the mother star positioned at the heart of the family. She symbolises the importance of being surrounded by our loved ones. At the core of the festivities is the coming together of whānau, friends, and community. Like Matariki, gather your nearest and dearest this season. 

2. Remember those who have passed

Of the nine stars in the constellation, 'Pōhutukawa' is associated with the departed. 

Matariki is a time of remembrance. Māori honour those lost during the year in the ancient ceremony ‘whāngai i te hautapu’ by calling out their names, mourning them, and bidding them farewell. Their spirits are released, and they join the myriad of stars that adorn the night sky. 

Pōhutukawa is the star associated with the departed. She reminds us to cherish their legacy and pay homage to their impact on our lives.  

3. Reflect on the past and plan for the future

This is a time to reflect on the year that has passed. Review your goals and contemplate your achievements and challenges. Take time to express gratitude for the people, experiences, and opportunities that have enriched your life during the year. 

Set goals and intentions for the future. This tradition is tied to Hiwa-i-te-rangi, the wishing star. Jot down your dreams and desires for the year ahead and cast them upward to Hiwa. 

4. Engage with your community at an event

Celebrate by attending a Matariki event, for instance, the city centre's outdoor lights trail. 

Every year, the region is aglow with events to mark the occassion. Enjoy the annual Matariki Festival with your whānau — it's got a substantial programme to choose from. If you’re in central Auckland, stroll down Queen Street to enjoy a series of pop-up performances by contemporary Māori and Pasifika artists, or wander along the city centre's outdoor lights trail. 

5. Plant a garden

Community planting days are held around Auckland for Matariki. 

Matariki informs us of the year to come based on how it appears. If the stars shine brightly and clearly, it will be a prosperous year with planting and harvesting. Two stars are connected directly to the weather: Waipunarangi represents the rain, and Ururangi the wind. 

Gardeners who observe the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar, will keep a close eye on the appearance of these stars to indicate the seasons to come. Start preparing your garden for the abundance it will bring. 

If you don’t have a garden, or wish to give back to your community, check out the community planting days held around Auckland for Matariki Festival. There are also several nature workshops this winter, from native plant identification to sustainable dye-making.  

6. Eat!

For kaimoana, try a sustainably caught feast at Britomart restaurant kingi.

Eating together is integral to Māori gatherings; it symbolises unity and oneness. 

Four of the stars are directly related to different food stocks: Waitī has domain over freshwater foods, Waitā over kaimoana, or seafood, Tupuānuku over food grown in the land, and Tupuārangi over food grown above the land. Incorporate a food type from these four domains in your dishes for your Matariki feast. 

For kaimoana, try a sustainably caught feast at Britomart restaurant kingi or Head Chef Kia Kanuta's creations at Ada. Grab a Hāngi pie at Blue Rose Cafe, or you could savour the finest locally sourced fare at Te Kaahu, located at the Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel.

7. Learn something new

Matariki occurs during the cold mid-winter months. Traditionally, this was a time for indoor activities, and people engaged in future planning, storytelling, arts and crafts, and higher learning. Nowadays, life continues as usual regardless of the weather, but it is the perfect time to consider pursuing new knowledge or skills and embrace the spirit of continuous learning. 

Think about what you might like to learn. Try a workshop at Matariki Festival like Māori weaving, making rewana (Māori bread) or stargazing at the Auckland Botanic Gardens.  

8. Observe Matariki

Observe Matariki on a mountain top.

Find out when Matariki will rise, check the weather, and pick a suitable day. Get up super early, put on your layers, and ascend one of the many maunga, or volcanic peaks, dotted across Auckland. Maungawhau Mt Eden, Pukekawa Auckland Domain, Maungakiekie One Tree Hill and Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura Mt Albert will all give you a good vantage point to view Matariki.

The prime time to view Matariki is before dawn. You can locate the constellation on the northeast horizon. Look for the distinct line of stars forming Tautoru, or Orion’s belt, then shift your focus northward to spot the cluster of tiny stars that herald the Māori New Year. 

9. Wish others well

Finally, share the festive season spirit with the phrases “Mānawaitia a Matariki” or “Ngā Mihi o te Tau Hou Māori” as you celebrate Matariki this year. 

Written by Hēmi Kelly

Last updated 18 Jun 2024

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