Matariki: old Maori tradition, new public holiday

An art work constructed of plants and leaves, representing the 9 stars of Matariki, also known as the Pleiades.
Matariki art by Kate McAlpine using plants and shells of Aotearoa

Yesterday was a huge event for Aotearoa: at last we officially celebrate the traditional Maori new year, Matariki, with a public holiday. I found the dawn ceremony in Te Whanganui-a-Tara very moving. Mostly because of the meaning of Matariki, where we honour the environment, the forces of nature, humanity, harvest, family and the departed. But also because most of our other “national” holidays are hard to relate to in 2022. Queen’s Birthday? Guy Fawkes Day—what? Even Anzac Day is fraught with problems. And so on. Here at last we have a holiday that is capable of engaging everyone in Aotearoa.

I can’t and shouldn’t even try to explain Matariki to you. Instead, follow these links.

Videos of the dawn ceremony at Te Papa for Matariki, 2022. There’s a translation of the incantations! I want to read them again and again.

A thoughtful and authoritative introduction to Matariki by Dr Rangi Mātāmua

And this is what Kate says about her awesome plant art work:

Mānawatia a Matariki! Matariki is about reflection, hope, connection to the environment, people, and health and wellbeing, and this picture is all about those things. The night sky is made from the leaves of kawakawa, an important rongoā Māori plant. The holes in the leaves (made by the kawakawa looper moth caterpillar) have white tree lucerne flowers (non-native, but a favourite food for kererū) shining through to form tiny stars. The nine stars of the Matariki cluster sit on pukira clam shells. The centre of each star is a mānuka (cultivar) flower, and the points are made from ponga/silver fern fronds and yellow gorse flowers. Even though gorse is a weed, it also represents hope for the environment because it facilitates native forest regeneration and heals the earth. And if the earth is well, the people are well.

Kate McAlpine,

P.S. I have just realised that “spiritual” contains the word “ritual.” The Matariki public holiday is both.

P.S. According to WordPress, you are 95% likely not to be a Kiwi. So, my fellow Kiwis, just enjoy the art because you know all this 🙂

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21 thoughts on “Matariki: old Maori tradition, new public holiday

  1. Gallivanta says:

    This is such a lovely piece of Matariki art. I also saw it on Juliet Batten’s Facebook page.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Really! I am happy it’s being so widely shared 😊 (proud mother)

      1. Gallivanta says:

        Proud mother you should be! I have shared it on my Facebook page too.

  2. Beautiful art work! And I totally agree with you about Matariki having meaning for all of us. At last we have an officially recognised celebration which matches our Southern Hemisphere seasons.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      So true! We don’t harvest in spring. I feel lucky.

  3. What a delightful and uplifting post Rachel. Proud Mum indeed, and a proud nation!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, celebrating our good luck as well as the big things.

  4. granny1947 says:

    You have a holiday for Guy Fawkes?
    Why on earth?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Ludicrous, isn’t it? Who knows what was in our tiny little minds

      1. granny1947 says:

        Someone who liked fireworks?

  5. Rebecca Budd says:

    Thank you for the introduction to Matariki! A wonderful celebration of my favourite season, the earth, community and family. Brilliant artwork by Kate!!! I posted this comment before and then it showed as anonymous!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m so glad you saw this. And thanks for persevering after the WordPress gremlins blanked your identity. (Any idea why this happens?)

      1. Rebecca Budd says:

        No idea whatsoever. As Mandy reminds me – there are some mysteries that will forever be mysteries. Love following your blog.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Mysteries have their value even with WP 🙂 and I wonder what doors you will open for your readers next…

  6. Kate, this is beautiful and meaningful. What a gift you have shared. Thank you.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It’s been quite a hit!

  7. myrak says:

    Thankyou so much for these links dear Rachel…great to read from afar. So joyous.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      So happy to share them with you x

  8. debscarey says:

    A beautiful & gentle post to bring an important subject to the fore. Love your daughter’s artworks. Reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy in the UK, whose outdoor artworks my daughter introduced me to.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Similar focus, different scale😊

  9. debscarey says:

    Yes, much much prettier – and by no means the worse for being so.

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