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17 Matariki celebrations happening around New Zealand

17 Matariki celebrations happening around New Zealand

The Matariki star cluster has arisen, heralding the beginning of Matariki, the Māori New Year.

17 Matariki celebrations happening around New Zealand

Matariki has become a true national celebration in Aotearoa New Zealand, set to become an official public holiday starting next year.

Nicknamed the ‘Aotearoa Star Man’, Dr Rangi Matamua is Māori astronomer who has spent his career working to revitalise Matariki and educate New Zealanders about Māori astronomy.

“Matariki is built around three major themes. Theme one is remembering those that are no longer with us, who have passed in that last year. It’s like a memorial to them, and we farewell our dead of the year,” explains Matamua.

“The second theme is about celebrating the present. Particularly with our whānau and friends, our loved ones. Matariki calls you to come home. It’s about your presence with the people that mean the most to you. Reconnecting and reaffirming to one another and where you’re from and where you call home.

“The third element is planning for the future, we send our wishes to the stars. In particular, the star Hiwa-i-te-Rangi, the Māori wishing star in the hope that all the goodness of the New Year will be bestowed upon us.

Events to celebrate Matariki in 2021

Traditionally, festivities were conducted to celebrate Matariki. They followed the harvesting of crops when the pātakapātaka (food storehouses) were full, freeing up time for family and leisure. These festivities included the lighting of ritual fires, the making of offerings, and celebrations of various kinds to farewell the dead, to honour ancestors, and to celebrate life.

Nowadays, across New Zealand, people come together to remember their ancestors, share food, sing, tell stories, and play music. Although Matariki becomes an official public holiday in New Zealand in 2022, it is still an important date in the 2021 calendar with celebrations happening across the country. 

  • Feast – This year, Eat New Zealand – a food community dedicated “to connecting people with our land through our food” is the force behind New Zealand’s first national food celebration, Feast Matariki. Running throughout June and July, Feast Matariki consists of a number of events and regional activations celebrating our national food culture in a way that is uniquely New Zealand. They talk to the Eat New Zealand Kaitaki – a collective of young New Zealand food storytellers – to share a bit about what Harvest in Aotearoa means to them
    • One event run as part of the ‘Feast’ celebrations was Kaikaukai at Coco’s Cantina in Auckland. “A kaihaukai is a feast which acknowledges the exchange and sharing of food and knowledge, and recognises the importance in creating and maintaining relationships. Matariki is an important time to do this.” 
  • Whangarei – Various cultural events will be taking place throughout June and July as part of Whangārei’s Matariki Festival, including fireworks, markets and night sky tours. 
  • Bay of Islands – The Bay of Islands Matariki Festival will run from July 2 to 11. There will be different cultural experiences to get involved in including feasts, dawn cruises, astrophotography, vineyard tours, and a must-see, the “Manu Masters” bomb competition. 
  • Auckland – Tāmaki Makaurau is ringing in the Māori New Year with a huge Matariki Festival from June 19 to July 11. Opening the festivities is a Matariki Dawn Karakia at Takaparawhau/Bastion Point, followed by events to choose from for all ages; Manu Aute Kite Day, a light display on Auckland Harbour Bridge, and a night of music and dancing under the Matariki stars.
  • Hamilton Waikato – The Matariki Ki Waikato Festival takes place from June 11 to July 31 and features a range of events spanning the arts, music, hauora (health), taiao (nature) and education, including kite day at Hamilton Gardens, the Te Ruru Light Festival, cultural workshops and family markets.
  • Waitomo – Waitomo will light up for Matariki with a new festival from July 3 to 10, held in the famous Waitomo Caves. Including art exhibitions, twilight tours, unique dining experiences, and a special music performance within the caves’ spectacular “cathedral” chamber, it’s not to be missed. 
  • Rotorua – Rotorua will come alive for Matariki, with exhibitions, decorations and markets that offer teachings and samples on the foods of Matariki, plus the Redwood Forest is putting on a special Matariki experience.
  • Tauranga – Tauranga will offer a full programme of events throughout June and July, including early morning hīkoi (walks) up Mauao, art exhibitions, workshops, Māori film screenings, a village market celebrating kaupapa Māori and sustainability and a kite day. 
  • Wellington – Celebrate Matariki in the capital at the Ahi Kā event on the waterfront from July 2, featuring ahi (fire), kai (food), storytelling, waiata (song) and entertainment, plus a Matariki fireworks display on Wellington Harbour on July 10. 
  • Wairarapa – Explore, make, learn, discover and play together. Celebrate the Māori New Year with a range of traditional activities to inspire and engage for Matariki.
  • Christchurch – Matariki will be celebrated in Ōtautahi this year with the inaugural Tīrama Mai event, a two-week light festival from June 25 to July 10. Tīrama Mai, which means to illuminate or bring light, will see the central city and New Brighton lit up with lighting installations, projections and illuminated artworks from 6pm to 11pm every night. The event will conclude with a magical fireworks display. 
  • Dunedin – Ōtepoti’s Puaka Matariki Festival will take place from July 2 to 16, with a series of community events including shared feasts, visual arts, music and dance performance, and educational programmes presented by the city’s galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
  • Southland – The Murihiku (Southland) Matariki Festival will take place in Invercargill from July 2 to 6. Enjoy light installations, community art displays, workshops and entertainment.
  • New Zealand Symphony OrchestraNgā Hihi o Matariki is a significant new work of symphonic proportions by Gareth Farr. To celebrate this Māori new year, join us for this sensational pulse-quickening experience – an opportunity to come together in recognition of a celestial event of uniqueness and beauty.
  • Te Papa Museum – Get up close to taonga (treasures) from their collections to make connections to navigation and the night sky, which helps to find Matariki. 
  • Sustainable Coastlines – Celebrate Matariki by giving back to Papatūānuku. Sustainable Coastlines are hosting a native tree planting event as part of their ANZ Love Your Water Tour. 
  • Giapo – Created a Matariki inspired ice cream.
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