Keep an eye out for Matariki

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June 27, 2022
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This month New Zealand celebrated Matariki with a public holiday for the very first time. This provides a great opportunity to learn more about this traditional time of celebration!

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name for an open star cluster within the constellation of Taurus. It is made up of hundreds of stars and has been recognised around the world for thousands of years under a number of different names. In Ancient Greece it was called “Pleiades” or the “Seven Sisters,” while in Hawaii it is “Makali’i” or the “Eyes of Royalty” and in Japan it is Subaru meaning “Gathered Together” or “United”. In New Zealand, Matariki is short for “Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea” or “The eyes of Tāwhirimātea” and the rising of Matariki has been recognised as one of the most significant annual Māori celebrations for hundreds of years. For many Māori, Matariki signifies the beginning of the Māori New Year (te mātahi o te tau).

When is Matariki?

The recently passed Te Ture mō te Hararei Tūmatanui o te Kāhui o Matariki 2022 (Te Kāhui o Matariki Public Holiday Act 2022) formally recognised Matariki as a public holiday in New Zealand. This year, Matariki was on Friday 24 June. It is given the same legal significance as the other public holidays set out in the Holidays Act 2003. The day will change every year and the relevant dates (until 2052) can be found in Schedule 1 of the Act.

There are currently no restrictions on opening hours for shops and businesses on Matariki, however employers and employees should be aware of their respective public holiday obligations under the Holidays Act 2003. If you are an employer or an employee and you are unsure about your public holiday rights or obligations, please get in touch with our friendly employment team and we will be happy to assist with any questions you have.

How can Matariki be celebrated?

Matariki is celebrated in different ways according to different cultural groups and regions, however there are some core key principles and values to celebrate together. Matariki traditionally has three stages which are each characterised by a key theme:

  1. Remembering the past
    The first stage is about remembering and honouring the past. This is a time to gather with whānau and remember and honour loved ones who have passed away since the last rising of Matariki.
  2. Celebrating the present
    The second stage is a time when communities and whānau gather and give thanks for the blessings received over the past year. It is a time of rest, relaxation and reconnection with each other in celebration of the present. Feasting, music, dancing, art and enjoying each other’s company is an important part of this stage.
  3. Planning the future
    The third stage is about looking to the future. Traditionally, Māori would use this time to gather together with their communities and whanau to strategically plan for the next season. This is a time to gather loved ones and discuss hopes, desires and fears and then strategically help each other to set goals and resolve problems. It is a great time to learn, share, discuss and make decisions with loved ones. One important element of future planning for Māori was caring for nature and the environment. You may wish to think of a fun environmental activity to do with whanau to have a positive impact on the future together such as planting trees, cleaning waterways or cleaning plastic rubbish from a beach.

Mānawatia a Matariki!

Ben Anderson
Ben Anderson
Solicitor

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