Skip to main content

Matariki - the Māori New Year

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in mid-winter and for many Māori, it heralds the start of a new year.

Matariki literally means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). 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.

Traditionally, it was a time for remembering the dead, and celebrating new life. In the 21st century, observing Matariki has become popular again. Kites, hot-air balloons and fireworks help mark the occasion. In the early 2000s Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission), the Ministry of Education and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, became involved in the revival of Matariki celebrations.

When is Matariki?

Different tribes celebrated Matariki at different times.  To some tribes the new year in mid-winter was signalled by the dawn rising of Matariki (the Pleiades), while to others it was the rising of Puanga (Rigel in Orion). For many iwi the appearance of Puanga in the night sky signalled the start of winter. Puanga was said to be one of the parents of the climbing plant puawānanga.

The Maramataka Māori (Māori Calendar) has closer to 355 days in its year cycle as opposed to 365 days in the Gregorian calendar which apparently follows the sun. Pipiri, the time of Matariki’s rising in the early morning, does not match up with June. Additionally, just because Matariki is visible does not mean it is the right time to read the stars for what the year ahead will bring. Matariki must be read when the moon is in the right phase in Pipiri: when the moon is in Tangaroa at the end of its third quarter and into the last quarter. The celebrations take place after this.

An excellent source of information is Dr Rangi Matamua's 2017 Matariki : the star of the year book which covers traditional practices, traditional ceremonies and beliefs as well as whether Matariki has a purpose in a modern context. Dr Matamua is an associate professor at the University of Waikato and his research fields are Māori astronomy and star lore, Māori culture, and Māori language development, research and revitalisation.

Listen to a 2017 Te Papa podcast featuring Dr Matamua sharing a Māori perspective of astronomical and cosmological links relevant to Matariki.

There is a helpful table on page 58 of this book, projecting the setting and rising of Matariki every year from now to 2050, showing how the period of Matariki varies year to year.

2018 dates

For 2018, June 7th is listed as the day that Matariki sets and July 6 - 9 as the rising, which is when you can see Matariki just above the horizon before the sun comes up. Dr Rangi Matamua's 2017 Matariki : the star of the year book also states the celebration period to be 6 -13 July for 2018.

Listen to Rereata Makiha, a member of the Māori Astronomy Society sharing his knowledge on Matariki on tumekeFM96.9 radio station here.

The Ministry does not provide funding for events celebrating Matariki. We suggest that event organisers talk to their local Council about what support might be available.

Te Ara website : Matariki – Māori New Year

NZHistory website : Matariki

How to find Matariki (the Pleiades)

You can check out ‘A beginner’s guide to finding Matariki’ on Te Ara's blog.

YouTube also features video clips about Matariki.

A beginner's guide to finding Matariki

Dayne Laird's Facebook album for Matariki 2017

YouTube Matariki clips

Matariki resources

The Ministry does not have any printed Matariki resources.  However you can download the following Ministry desktop wallpaper from our website.

Another free download includes three Matariki colouring book pages for tamariki to print and colour from Auahi Kore's website.

Te Papa has several resources available on their website including a downloadable booklet, a video on how to find the Matariki star cluster and some tips on how to celebrate Matariki at home

Online Matariki worksheets are available here. Learn more at thetereomāoriclassroom.

Visit Te Papa's website to download a maramataka poster.

Library Graphics, a website providing visual information for schools libraries includes Matariki posters.

The Kiwi Families parenting website includes useful information on Matariki, including a number of Matariki craft ideas.

Top Teaching Tasks also provides a free Matariki Activity Sheet.

Where to find Matariki events

Details about further 2018 events will be added closer to the time.

In 2018 the Matariki Festival will celebrate the Māori New Year with events across the Auckland region from 30 June to 22 July.  Tāmaki Makaurau will look west to Te Kawerau a Maki as the iwi takes on the hosting of this year’s Matariki Festival. The west Auckland iwi will host Matariki Festival 2018 in partnership with Auckland Council and open festivities on 30 June with an evocative dawn karakia at the Arataki Visitor Centre, located in the heart of Te Waonui a Tiriwa (Waitākere Ranges).

Auckland Council's Matariki Festival website

Wellington will formally make Matariki, the Māori New Year, a major city celebration in 2018. Matariki ki Pōneke 2018 will be celebrated with the free public events during June and July 2018. Rounding out their Matariki celebrations will be the Wellington Sky Show on 07 July at the Wellington waterfront. This landmark event sees the Wellington harbour light up with a spectacular fireworks display.

Wellington City Council's website

Te Papa is celebrating Matariki from Friday 15 – Sun 24 June 2018, come and join the festivities

Te Papa's Matariki page

The Puaka Matariki festival is unique to Ōtepoti Dunedin, marking the Māori New Year through community events from 6 to 22 July.

Dunedin Puaka Matariki Festival

Updated on 13th June 2018