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Manawa Maiea Te Putanga o Matariki

To honour or celebrate Matariki when it rises in the sky



The name ‘Matariki’ is a celebration deeply rooted in indigenous culture and means ‘tiny eyes’ or ‘eyes of God’ in te reo Māori. Matariki refers to the seven bright stars that make up the Pleiades cluster. The Pleiades cluster is known to many cultures and has been observed and worshiped as far as 20,000 years ago.

The Pleiades star cluster was associated with changing seasons, harvesting, preparing for cold weather and new life and religion. If the star cluster shone brightly, it meant that the harvest would be in abundance. Traditionally, the season of Matariki, held during the coldest season of the year, signaled Māori to rest and bring an end to the busy work activities of gathering and storing kai (food) for winter. 

The star cluster Matariki is known by different names around the world. The seven stars of Matariki are: Matariki (connected to health and wellbeing), Pōhutukawa (connected to those who have passed away), Tupuānuku (associated with food), Tupuārangi (connected to food), Waitī (connected to fresh water), Waitā (connected to the ocean and represents food from the sea), Waipuna-ā-rangi (associated with rain) and Ururangi (connected to the wind).  

Cultural Significance

Matariki is known as the Māori New Year in Te ao Māori (Māori worldview). Matariki is a time for people of Aotearoa to come together to honour and celebrate Matariki. Matariki is a Māori approach and encompasses all cultures of Aotearoa; it is a celebration for ALL. 

The significance of recognising Matariki is years of advocacy from Māori communities. The holiday aims to foster awareness of the cultural significance among all New Zealanders here and abroad. It shows that Matariki is purposeful and meaningful. 

Matariki became a public holiday in 2022 and is generally celebrated in June or July. It is the first public holiday in Aotearoa to recognise Te ao Māori. It is not centered on the one day but the season leading to Matariki.

Matariki theme for 2024

Matariki Heri Kai, the bringer of food, is this year’s theme. 

The different star cluster have an association to various sources of food, gardens, fresh water and ocean. The connection is to encourage all to be active and protect these ecosystems. Matariki is a not only a time to connect with the environment but also a time to spend with whānau and friends and share kai (food). Matariki is a time to remember the past, celebrate the present and look to the future.

The essence of Matariki is:

  • Remembering the people who have passed since the last rising of Matariki.

  • Coming together for kai (food) and aroha.

  • Connect and celebrate who we are, planning for the year ahead in the hopes of a bright and prosperous future.

Matariki and former refugee and migrant communities

The Chinese New Year, marking the start of spring in the lunar calendar, signifies the new season ahead. Nowruz (Iranian New Year) celebrates the onset of spring in mid-March. Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, is a time of gratitude and triumph of light over darkness, observed by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains worldwide. Muharram signifies the beginning of the Islamic New Year, sharing similarities with Persian Nowruz in symbolising nature's renewal and fostering harmonious relationships.

These diverse celebrations, rooted in feasting, reflection, and unity with nature, are embraced by various cultures. We support former refugees and migrants in upholding their traditions, providing a welcoming community space where they can freely express their cultural heritage. At the same time, we encourage mutual understanding by sharing cultural traditions and practices of tangata whenua, recognising the parallels and similarities between different cultural traditions.

The theme of World Refugee Day 2024 was solidarity, a concept embraced by HOST. We believe that solidarity is a valuable gift that can enhance unity, collaboration, and community inclusion, making the world a better place. Solidarity among communities is fostered through sharing of traditional celebrations and recognition and understanding of each other’s cultural heritage.

Matariki presents an opportunity to explore the sharing of knowledge and the cultural significance of the Māori New Year. By sharing this cultural heritage, a bicultural framework is established, fostering a dialogue about and with tangata whenua and exploring how Matariki aligns with the traditions of former refugees and migrants resettling in Aotearoa New Zealand. By embracing our diversity, we unite in our shared pursuit for knowledge, mutual support, and cross-cultural learning.


Many communities run events to celebrate Matariki. Find out what is happening in your community through local/community FB page newspaper, libraries, community centres.  

The link below provides ideas and resources to help show different ways you can acknowledge the Māori New Year and observe the rising of Matariki.

Take the challenge to see the rising of Matariki on Friday 28 June. 




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