Māori New Year

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name given to a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation. It’s common name in the Northern Hemisphere is Pleiades, and in Japan it is called Subaru.

Why is Matariki important in Aotearoa/New Zealand?

For many Māori tribal groups, the year ended with the setting of Matariki in May, and the new year begining with the rising of Matariki in June or July.

The celebration of New Year and winter festivals are common throughout the world. From Hogmanay in Scotland, Yule celebrations in old European cultures, to Chinese New Year.

In Aotearoa, the rising of Matariki signified mid-winter to Māori, and the promise of new life and prosperity.

Te Papa · Matariki and Māori astronomy with Dr Rangi Matamua

How was Matariki traditionally celebrated?

As with many cultures around the world, mid-winter was typically a period of inactivity for Māori. The harvest would have been gathered and storage houses and pits filled.

Apart from the harvesting of kereru and korokoro, little work was undertaken at this time, and people were free to relax and entertain themselves with activities of a more pleasurable nature, such as dancing, music, art, games and other pastimes.

Matariki – The Star of the Year by Rangi Matamua

As well as looking forward to the promise of a new year, it was also time to mourn and remember those that had been lost in the previous one.

When is Matariki?

Matariki is calculated to occur on the following dates over the next ten years:

YearSetting of MatarikiRising of MatarikiMatariki Period
202015 May13-16 July13-20 July
20212 June2-5 July2-10 July
202223 May21-24 June21-29 June
202313 May10-13 July10-17 July
202431 May29 June – 2 July29 June – 6 July
202521 May19-12 June19-25 June
20268 June8-11 July8-14 July
202729 May27-30 June27 June – 4 July
202816 May15-18 July15-21 July
20294 June4-7 July4-12 July

Matariki dates souced from: Matariki – The Star of the Year by Rangi Matamua

Where can I find Matariki?

In Aotearoa/New Zealand Matariki is visible for most of the year in the Northern night skies except for a few weeks between May and July.

The easiest way to find Matariki is to look for the very recognisable Orion constellation, commonly know as ‘the pot’, or Tautoru to Māori.

Follow the line of Orion’s belt, through the face of Taurus the bull and you will see a small cluster of stars. That is Matariki.

Matariki is in the letter N – Photo by Andy Davey

What will I see?

The cluster is also called ‘The Seven Sisters’, but with good eyes and clear skies, you may be able to make out up to nine stars within the cluster. It is actually made up of many more.

Matariki through the N in Alexandra sign. – Photo be Andy Davey

Do you want to find out more?

Matariki: The Star of the Year by Rangi Matamua