How businesses can celebrate Matariki without being slammed for commercialising the holiday

Matariki is right around the corner but as the country prepares to celebrate the second-ever public holiday, there are questions about whether businesses can too.

Since the first Matariki holiday was announced, there were concerns commercialisation could take away from the core values of the holiday.

But the man behind Matariki, Rangi Mātāmua, said for businesses wanting to celebrate the new year - it all comes down to intent.

Celebrated this year on July 14, Matariki, the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades, marks the beginning of the New Year in the Māori lunar calendar. 

Matariki holds significant cultural and spiritual weight for many Māori and last year, there were fears the holiday would be commercialised. 

Most recently, Lewis Road Creamery has faced social media backlash for bringing back their Matariki-inspired special-edition Winter Spice milk. The company made sure to note that the collaboration is "purely for celebration and not for profit".

However, the relaunch of the Matariki-inspired milk still infuriated many who claimed the company was using the celebration as a "commercial opportunity".

Appearing on AM, Dr Mātāmua said the commercialisation of the holiday is inevitable.

"I think we need to be really open - you can't tell anyone how to celebrate something. The society that we live in is driven by the economy and commercialism is part of that," he told co-host Ryan Bridge.

Rangi Mātāmua says the commercialisation of the holiday is inevitable.
Rangi Mātāmua says the commercialisation of the holiday is inevitable. Photo credit: The Project

However, the Māori astronomer said there are fundamental themes that underpin Matariki that businesses should not ignore.

These include remembrance by acknowledging those who have died since the last rising of Matariki, celebrating the present and looking to the future.

"If those underpin any business in what it's trying to do in order to promote Matariki, then I encourage them to do it," Dr Mātāmua said.

He believes businesses that choose to incorporate Matariki should be doing so for more reasons than just making money, but showing their commitment to the holiday's values.

"The most important thing is that we acknowledge, practise and celebrate Matariki."