Manawatia to Matariki! Tips for celebrating if you don’t know where to start

The recognition of Matariki with a public holiday is a big moment for Aotearoa. Simon Day received some tips to mark this special moment.

Standing outside barefoot, staring at the clear morning sky, I followed the stars from the familiar Tautoro to the left to find the Matariki group. It was the first time I had taken the time to locate the nine stars that mean so much to Aotearoa and are once again receiving the recognition they deserve. I rang wondering if my tipuna were doing the same thing hundreds of years ago as they looked to the stars for guidance.

When we celebrate Matariki on Friday June 24, Aotearoa will dedicate a day to Māori mātauranga. This will be the first time that the Māori tikanga will be officially recognized by the colonial calendar with a public holiday. And according to the research of Dr. Rangi Mātāmua, the humble superstar of the Matariki movementofficial recognition will make Matariki the world’s first reintroduced indigenous festival.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would come to this place where we would take a day to stop as a nation to recognize the mātauranga Māori,” Mātāmua told the crowd gathered at marae Te Tākinga in Rotorua during the Kupu Maori Writers Festival at the weekend.

“We no longer need to look abroad to reflect our identity. We have an identity and a culture here, we have always had it, and it is linked to everyone. There is not a single individual who is not descended from people who admired the stars to understand who they are.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei held an umu kohukohu whetū ceremony at Takaparawhau to observe the first day of Matariki (Photo: Duncan Greive)

You do you (plus three key ideas)

Matariki’s elk seems to have real significance for Aotearoa’s appreciation of Māori mātauranga. But while this year Matariki has received more attention than ever and the campaign to teach New Zealanders about its history and traditions has been a resounding success, when it comes to how to celebrate Matariki, many people don’t still don’t know where to start. Personally, I felt a lot of pressure to make this Matariki authentic and perfect. But I didn’t really know what that meant or what I was looking for.

Listening to Mātāmua talk about the marae that evening, I realized that celebrating Matariki is really very easy and beautiful: you do you!

There are three key ideas that underlie Matariki and they are the best starting point to inform how you celebrate and shape your own traditions. The first is to remember those we lost in the past year and the legacy they leave us. The second celebrates the present and the people in your life who fulfill you. Like the stars of the Matariki cluster rising together, it’s a chance to come together as a group and celebrate who you are. Third, Matariki is a time to look forward with hope and set a new intention for the coming year.

“Matariki is about celebrating who we were, who we are, and who we want to be,” says Mātāmua.

“Spend time with the people closest to you. Sit down and have a meal together and get to know each other. Do what works best for you. Follow what your puku tells you to do. Say what’s in your heart. There is no wrong way to do it. The main thing is that you do it with the right intentions.

I use Matariki to explore my whakapapa and make sure my two year old twins are aware of their tipuna. We wanted to create a photo wall of our family since they were born. Matariki was the push we needed to finally hang our whakapapa pictures.

This is the perfect time to learn more about mātauranga Māori. I start by trying to learn the names of the nine stars of Matariki and their different roles. So far I’m confident on six (even the mighty Rob Ruha failed his pop quiz at the Matariki prices). And I learned a new phrase in te reo Māori – Manawatia to Matariki, a salutation or salutation to honor and welcome Matariki. (That rolls off the tongue much better than “Happy New Year.”)

Te whānau a Matariki (Image: Te Haunui Tuna, 2016, provided by Rangi Mātāmua)

Te whāngai i te hautapu

When Matariki gathers in the sky, the stars call people to gather on Earth. At the Spinoff, we will have a shared lunch. Working in the media can be quite a hectic environment at times – especially over the past couple of years – and it’s an opportunity to hang out together over delicious kai and celebrate the work the organization is doing.

We have the chance to eat hāngī cooked by chef Luke Adams which is dropped off early this morning as part of a whāngai i haught you ceremony. I’m going to help the mahi and it will be the first time I get up early in the morning to observe the Matariki cluster.

The traditional ceremony has three parts. The first is you tirohangawhere the tohunga (cultural and spiritual leaders) observe the stars to understand the forecasts of the following year’s harvests.

During te whakamahara i ngā mate the names of those who died last year are called out to the stars. In te ao Māori, Te Waka o Rangi is formed by a constellation that connects Matariki at the stern with Tautoru (Orion’s belt) at the bow, and is commanded by a star called Taramainuku. Every night of the year, as the sun sets and the constellation is seen, Taramainuku casts his net and searches for the souls of those who died that day. And when the cluster disappears in May, the waka takes the dead to the underworld to prepare. When the constellation returns to the night sky aligned with the moon phase of Tangaroa for the Matariki period, Taramainuku is said to throw souls out into the cosmos where their spirits become stars against the chest of the sky. It’s a time to reflect on the people we’ve lost over the year, to break the tapu we have with the dead and release that burden.

“We do not forget them. They are always there looking down on us,” says Mātāmua.

Since many stars of the Matariki group are associated with food, the third part of the ceremony – te whāngai i ngā whetū – is about feeding the stars. Food from each of the environments represented by the stars—earth, forest, sea, and fresh water—is cooked in a hāngī or umu and when the oven is uncovered, the steam from the food rises to feed the stars.

If you can’t have your own whāngai i te hautapu, tune into virtually any TV channel to watch the official Te Papa ceremony from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. It’s pretty cool to see mātauranga Māori interrupting the whole broadcast program for six hours.

Whatever you do, be sure to celebrate. Mātāmua received many worried messages asking what is appropriate for Matariki, concerned about the tapu and the sanctity of the day. His advice: once the moment of the ceremony of releasing the dead is over, everything else is a party.

“If it’s nice, go ahead and do it. Celebrate how you want to celebrate. Make it your Matariki where you are,” explains Mātāmua.

“Don’t buy presents. To be present.”

Manawatia to Matariki!

Comments are closed.