How to celebrate Matariki at home

  • 24/06/2022
Matariki is the time for us to declutter, re-organise and re-set.
Matariki is the time for us to declutter, re-organise and re-set. Photo credit: NASA

By Kahumako Rameka, Te Rito Journalism cadet

Matariki celebrations big and small are getting underway around Aotearoa.  But what simple things can you do to celebrate the Māori New Year at home?

Even with the abundance of events and resources available surrounding our newest public holiday on Friday, it can still be tricky knowing how to navigate welcoming the celebration in your own way.

Hana Rāwhiti-Maipi of Ngāpuhi, Waikato, Taranaki, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Porou says it’s okay to be unsure of how to celebrate Matariki, as it is an ongoing journey of learning for everyone.

In 2018 her whānau began their research into the traditional Māori new year ceremony of Hautapu.  They were one of the first whānau in Rāhui Pōkeka (Huntly) to deep dive into the customs and traditions of this ancient celebration.

“How we first started off (in 2018), we just literally roasted marshmallows,” she says. And as each year passed a new tradition was introduced.

“Hautapu is a mixture of tapu (sacred) and noa (not sacred).”

Rāwhiti-Maipi says Matariki is the time for us to declutter, re-organise and re-set - whether it’s spiritually, emotionally or physically  - discarding anything that no longer serves you.

It could be as simple as writing a list of emotions or past relationships that you wish to free yourself from .. and then burning it.  From there, your list of worries is carried skyward by the smoke.

“For the whole year we wear this invisible backpack, we fill it up with the good stuff, the bad stuff”  says Rāwhiti-Maipi.

“Come Matariki, that’s a space and time that allows us to unload that pēke (bag).”

“It’s a huge opportunity for us to really acknowledge, let go, and intend our new intentions for the new year. It’s a very special process.”

Rāwhiti-Maipi simplifies the process into a few simple steps: coming together, sharing a meal, giving thanks, acknowledging those who have passed, and setting new goals.

“Our biggest objective is to make whānau feel comfortable celebrating Matariki.  Not everyone knows a 20 minute long karakia.”

These steps take place as Matariki becomes visible in the sky just before dawn between 5:30am and 6:30am.  Look towards the east to see the nine whetū or stars that make up the cluster.

Matariki is located low on the northeast of the horizon, look to the left of Tautoru (Orion's Belt), and follow an imaginary line across to Taumata-kuku (Aldebaran) the bright orange star and keep going until you hit a cluster of stars.

As symbolised by the star cluster itself, Matariki is a time for people to come together. Rāwhiti-Maipi says, if you are spending Matariki alone, take time to contact family,  friends or colleagues during the morning.

Be present and thankful, she says, “take some time to be present with yourself and your surroundings, acknowledge the environment and be thankful for what you have.”

Reflecting on the past year and acknowledging lost loved ones is vital,  as this is the time when those who have passed during the year ascend with Matariki to their final resting place.

However you decide to celebrate Matariki at home, the important things to remember are that it's a time to bid farewell to yesterday, celebrate today, and invite best wishes for tomorrow.