Dr Rangi Mātāmua, a driving force behind Matariki becoming an official public holiday and a leading expert on Matariki and Māori astronomy, shares his thoughts on why celebrating it as a country is an important milestone for Aotearoa.
By Dr Rangi Mātāmua
There isn't a single person in this country that doesn't descend from people who used the stars to tell the time, to know how to navigate and when they should go hunting or fishing.
It's interesting what we have chosen to celebrate as a nation and what reflects our identity. We sing about flying reindeer and snow in the middle of December, we talk of rabbits and chocolate eggs, we celebrate some guy that tried to blow up Parliament on the other side of the world.
We have flipped our calendar system to follow what happens in Europe. So when they're in the middle of winter they stop and they stay inside, because it's cold and dark, wet and snowy.
Matariki was that for us, years ago. But now, with an imported new year period from overseas, we do the opposite.
When the environment is peaking and active and we have lots of daylight hours, we're trying to slow down, go to the beach, read a book and rest.
In the winter, when it's colder and darker and the environment has slowed down, we're off playing sports, working hard, travelling around and socialising.
We're trying to run against the natural ebbs and flows of the environment.
When Matariki rises in midwinter, it is a reminder for us to slow down and take note of our environment.
Matariki is a holiday that is directly linked to where we are in the world. It is a group of stars that is acknowledged by every culture on the planet. It's a holiday for everyone, it has no political affiliations and no one owns the sky.
In the morning, during the middle of winter, the stars of the Matariki cluster rise as one group, Matariki hunga nui.
They gather together as one people, a symbol to us that in the new year, regardless of what's gone on, we should reflect and gather together to celebrate who we are as one.
Its significance is underpinned by three key points:
- Remembering those who are gone - who we are is built on the backs of the people that have come before us. It's about reflecting on the people we've lost throughout the year and the lessons they've given us. It's about honouring their memories and thanking them for everything they shared.
- Celebrating the present - this time is for us to slow down and be with loved ones. A celebration as simple as gathering with whānau, watching a movie together, having something to eat.
- Planning for the future - look to the New Year and think what can we do better? How can we support the environment? How can we support the people in our community?
It's about celebrating who we are - a vibrant, diverse nation who have all come to call this beautiful place home.
Mānawatia a Matariki, welcome and celebrate Matariki!