Where to celebrate Matariki

8 Great Places To Celebrate Matariki

Matariki marks the start of the Māori new year, signifying a moment to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Keren Sim learns more about where to celebrate this special occasion.

Throughout history, cultures all around the world have established their own customs to mark the transition from the old year to the new. In Aotearoa, Matariki has traditionally been celebrated by iwi as a time to gather with whānau – to look back at the year that passed, cherish the present and look ahead to the new year.

The name Matariki refers to the cluster of stars, also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, which rises during midwinter and is best viewed just before sunrise. Astronomy has traditionally played a very important role in Māori culture, influencing everything from navigation to planting and harvesting crops. In fact, tohunga (experts) would use the brightness of the Matariki cluster to predict the abundance of the new year’s harvest – the brighter and clearer the stars, the more successful the harvest.

As one of the brightest visible clusters, the stellar spectacle we know as Matariki holds special importance for many people worldwide, and is known by various names around the globe, including Subaru (‘gathered together’) in Japan and Makali’i (‘eyes of royalty’) in Hawaii.

This year, for the first time, Matariki will be celebrated in New Zealand with a public holiday on June 24. Here are some of the official events and gatherings happening throughout Aotearoa.

Where to celebrate Matariki
Capture a moment in time: Look up to the sky this Matariki

Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland)

From June 21 – July 16, Auckland Council is hosting a Matariki Festival in partnership with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. A comprehensive programme of events will be held throughout the Auckland region, including kapa haka, light shows, kite-flying and a celebration of delicious local kai. With both free and ticketed events on the schedule, there’s plenty of choices to make your Matariki celebration this year extra special. Another particularly special highlight to look out for this year is the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s concert Ka Pō, Ka Ao with well-known Māori musician Rob Ruha. Featuring orchestral music, kapa haka and a variety of songs including ‘I Te Pō’ and ‘Ka Mānu’, this takes place on June 23.

More information: matarikifestival.org.nz, www.apo.co.nz

Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands)

The Matariki Festival in the Bay of Islands returns for its second year in 2022, with events taking place from Kerikeri to Paihia and beyond. This year, the schedule runs from June 17 – July 31 and encompasses a wide range of activities designed to nourish the mind, body and spirit. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, including some Matariki-inspired culinary feasts, markets, music, vineyard tours, cultural experiences and of course, stargazing. If you’re heading north for the long weekend, this is definitely a destination you’ll want to visit for the Matariki celebrations.

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More information: matarikinz.com

Te Awahou (Foxton)

The Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom centre will play a key role in the Matariki celebrations this year in Foxton, with special animations and a slide show projected onto the side of this cultural and community hub as part of the Night Lights Over Foxton event taking place on Saturday, June 25. Hungry visitors can also look forward to chowing down on plenty of tasty kai, with a variety of food trucks on site, plus there’ll be live music to enjoy throughout the event as well. As a handy tip, there’s also an NZMCA camp just a short walk away at the Foxton Race Course for anyone wanting to park up nearby.

More information: teawahou.com/Home

Aoraki Mt Cook

Nestled in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the scenic Mt Cook Lakeside Retreat is a must for stargazing enthusiasts. With the skies above free from light pollution thanks to the efforts of the Dark Sky Project, you can enjoy the beauty of Matariki from a vantage point like no other. The retreat has been celebrating Matariki as an event since 2020, and this year, they’re hosting a series of special events from June 24-26, including a dawn stargazing session and breakfast, followed by a nine-course degustation menu inspired by each star within the constellation.


More information: mtcookretreat.nz

Where to celebrate Matariki
Traditional skills celebrated in Hokianga, Northland

Tauranga

From 3 May – 19 July you’ll find a wide variety of local workshops, exhibitions, cultural shows and entertainment hosted across Tauranga to celebrate Matariki in 2022. Admire artwork from emerging Māori artists including Tipene Fitzell and Meadow Maharey, or immerse yourself in the bilingual theatre show MATAATUA, directed by Tuatara Collective’s Jason Te Mete. Another standout event to look out for is Manākitanga, an exhibition celebrating traditional and contemporary Māori carvers; and the Matariki Glow Show on July 19, a larger than life glow-in-the-dark puppet show that’s fun for all the family.

More information: mytauranga.co.nz/matariki

Ōtautahi (Christchurch)

After the success of last year’s inaugural event, the spectacular light festival Tīrama Mai will be back to illuminate Christchurch in 2022. This free festival will be held from June 24 – July 3, with the opening night coinciding with the Matariki public holiday. One of the highlights of the festival this year includes a 21m long tunnel between Cathedral Square and Te Pae, which showcases an innovative light display and the telling of a Ngāi Tahu creation story. There’s plenty more to enjoy as part of the festival, so make sure you head on down to take in the dazzling displays yourself.

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More information: ccc.govt.nz/whatson

Kā Muriwai (Arrowtown)

If you’re in beautiful Arrowtown for the Matariki public holiday, you mustn’t miss the Matariki Arrowtown Lights event taking place over June 24 – 26. A combination of visual storytelling, light displays and projections down Buckingham Street will herald the country’s inaugural Matariki public holiday in 2022, and there’s sure to be something to please and delight everyone in the family. Local kapa haka school groups will perform, and there’s even an astrophysicist set to discuss the finer details of the night skies. The event is free, so everyone can come and enjoy the programme.

More information: arrowtown.com/our-town/events/matariki-arrowtown-lights

Kāpiti

This year, Kāpiti will be ablaze with light as part of Matariki Ramaroa, a month-long arts festival taking place throughout the region. From June 24 – July 17, visitors will be treated to music, arts and theatre performances galore. There are plenty of other community events to enjoy as well; the festival will also open and close with two special light sculpture events open to the public. Alongside Matariki Ramaroa, there will also be a five-day Māoriland Film Festival (MFF) held from June 29 – 3 July, which will showcase over 80 films from indigenous filmmakers around the world. MFF’s programme this year is stacked with visual highlights from documentaries and short films to feature-length dramas, so you won’t want to miss this very special double celebration in the Kāpiti region.

More information: matariki.maorilandfilm.co.nz

Be in to win!

Matariki around the worldTo celebrate Matariki, we have a copy of the stunning new book, Matariki Around The World: A Cluster of Stars, a Cluster of Stories to give away. This authoritative yet playful collection of stories is written by Māori astronomer Rangi Matamua and co-authored by award-winning Māori journalist Miriama Kamo, with beautiful illustrations by Isobel Te Aho-White. It takes a global look at the stories woven around the Matariki cluster, exploring the origins of the constellation through nine named whetū (stars) and sharing stories from the Pacific Islands to Australia, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Africa.

To be in to win this book, email [email protected] by midnight on Monday, 20 June 2022.

 

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