Matariki, the Māori New Year, means ‘tiny eyes’ or ‘eyes of god’ and is celebrated in June when a small group of stars called Pleiades rises above the horizon, bringing the old year to a close and starting a new year.
According to myth, when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.
Various Māori tribes celebrated Matariki at different times. Some held festivities when Matariki was first seen in the dawn sky; others celebrated after the full moon rose or at the beginning of the next new moon. The full moon was celebrated in Wellington on June 6 this year, making the start of Matariki.
Matariki is celebrated for the rest of month, and different tribes and Iwi celebrate the New Year in a variety of different ways. Traditionally, Matariki was a time to finish storing food for the winter, weave new clothing and baskets, listen to the stories of our ancestors, and learn about the natural world.
Nowadays, New Zealanders are more likely to get together with family and friends, talk about Māori myths and culture, look at the stars through telescopes, and watch kapa haka performances.
You can find out about Matariki events in Wellington at the Matariki Wellington website.