Hundreds of Aucklanders had an early start this morning, welcoming the Māori New Year with a traditional dawn ceremony hosted by Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei at Takaparawhau.
The whāngai i te hautapu ceremony is an ancient tradition, and one of many ways to celebrate Matariki.
It involves different foods being cooked in a hāngī / umu (earth oven), the steam becoming an offering to feed the cluster of stars.
Food for the umu is chosen to represent four stars of Matariki: Tupuārangi, which signifies food that comes from above; Tupuānuku, food from the ground; Waitī, fresh water; and Waitā, food from the ocean.
During the ceremony, the names of those who have died are also called out as tribute. It’s believed that one of the stars, Pōhutukawa, guides the dead across the night sky.
When the cluster returns to the horizon just before the sunrises, the dead of the year make their final journey into the sky.
Alf Filipaina, Auckland Councillor, was at Takaparawhau for the hautapu on Tuesday morning. He said that part of the ceremony, when the names of those who had died were read out, was emotional.
“I cried, obviously. Especially when they read the names out of those who have passed, and that thought obviously with my brother who passed earlier this year.”
The ceremony is also a time to give thanks, and reflect on the year that has passed.
Te Kurataiaho Kapea, of Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei, hopes more people will participate in such traditions, with Matariki becoming a public holiday for the first time on Friday.
“I absolutely do feel that it will become more common, and the good news will spread, and how to do this ceremony will become more familiar with others.”
Te Papa is also hosting an official Matariki hautapu ceremony on June 24, to welcome in the first public holiday of its kind.
Whāngai i te Hautapu will be live streamed on TVNZ1 and on 1News online.