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  • Writer's pictureAKA Education Group

Mānawatia a Matariki!

The coming weekend is a much awaited long one, and while most of us know the reason for the celebrations, to our newbies – read on and grow your knowledge! 

In the heart of winter, Aotearoa's night sky offers a spectacular show that transforms the dark sky into a celebration. Matariki, the Māori New Year, arrives with a cluster of sparkling stars, illuminating the skies above and the heart within. Astronomers call them by their Greek name: the Pleiades, we in Aotearoa know it as Matariki. 

Matariki is not just about celebrating the New Year; it's about understanding and preserving the deep connections between the stars and the earth, youth and the ancestors. Elders take this opportunity to educate the younger generations about the significance of each star in the Matariki cluster.  

The story goes that Matariki and her daughters travel across the sky each year to visit their ancestor, Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother). During this time, they help to prepare the earth for the new growing season, caring for the land, the water, and all living things. Each daughter has a special role and connection to different aspects of nature: 

  • Tupu-ā-rangi: Connected to the forest and the creatures that inhabit it. She reminds people of the bounty that the forests provide, from the birds that nest in the canopy to the fruits and nuts that sustain life. Tupu-ā-rangi encourages gratitude for the gifts that come from above, urging a respectful and sustainable relationship with the forests. 

  • Tupu-ā-nuku: Associated with the food grown in the soil. This star reminds us to honor and care for the land, ensuring it remains fertile and productive for future generations.   

  • Ururangi: Tied to the winds and weather patterns. Ururangi teaches the importance of respecting the power of wind and understanding its role in the broader environmental system. 

  • Waipuna-ā-rangi: Linked to the rains. Waipuna-ā-rangi underscores the significance of water in the natural cycle, teaching the value of water conservation and respect for this life-giving resource. 

  • Waitī: Associated with fresh water and the creatures within it. 

  • Waitā: Connected to the ocean and its bounty. 

  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi: This star is seen as a star of wishes and aspirations. It embodies hope and the future, encouraging people to set goals and make plans for the coming year. 

  • Pōhutukawa: Associated with those who have passed on, Pōhutukawa is a star of remembrance. It offers a moment to reflect on loved ones who are no longer with us, honoring their memory and the legacy they have left behind. 

The reappearance of Matariki in the sky signals a time for reflection, remembrance of those who have passed, and planning for the future. It is a period of festivity, with families gathering to celebrate life, acknowledge their ancestors, and look forward to a prosperous year ahead. 

This mythological story underscores the deep connection tangata whenua have with the natural world and their reverence for the cycles of nature. 


Matariki sees communities come together in festive gatherings, sharing kai harvested from past seasons. The celebrations are alive with waiata (songs), haka (dances), and the lighting of traditional fires. These fires, more than just sources of warmth, symbolize a connection to their ancestors and the divine stars above.  

Matariki is a time of deep gratitude and hope. As the old year washes away and the new one begins, people embrace the passing of the mid-winter, the lengthening of the days and the prospect of Spring, knowing that Matariki brings a cycle of life that is both enduring and ever-renewing. Under the glittering constellation, we find a moment of peace, unity, and a shared vision for the future. 

Here’s wishing everyone a beautiful matariki and a glorious year ahead! 

Kia ora

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