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Matariki - the Māori New Year

What is Matariki?

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

Traditionally, it was a time for remembering the dead, celebrating new life and planting new crops. In the 21st century, observing Matariki has become popular again as a cross-cultural celebration. Kites, kai, balloons and fireworks help mark the occasion.

Iwi across Aotearoa celebrate Matariki at different times according to when its return is observed from their rohe (area). To some iwi 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). Matariki or Puanga can be seen pre-dawn in the north-east of the sky, just above the horizon from mid-June to early July.

Read Te Ara's blog - A beginner's guide to finding Matarki.

Because Māori follow the Māori lunar calendar, not the European calendar, the dates for Matariki change every year. In 2019, the Matariki cluster will set on 27 May and return from 25-28 June. The Matariki period is 25 June-3 July. See Te Wānanga o Aotearoa’s list of Matariki dates for the next 10 years.

Matariki : The Star of the Year by Dr Rangi Matamua lists on page 58 the schedule of the Matariki settings, risings and celebration periods for up to 2050 – so is an important resource. 

More detailed information about Matariki can be found on the following Ministry websites.

Te Ara website : Matariki – Māori New Year

NZHistory website : Matariki

The Ministry does not provide funding or collateral for events celebrating Matariki, nor do we have expertise around when the events will be celebrated each year as this varies. We suggest that event organisers talk to their local Council about what support might be available and when the event might be celebrated in their local area.

Te Puni Kōkiri provides one off financial contributions through the Te Pū Harakeke Fund to whānau, hapū, iwi and community groups toward Matariki celebratory events and activities.

Matariki resources

Te Papa's Matariki webpages including an activity book

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa's Matariki Resources

Kiwi Families - simple ways to celebrate Matariki


Updated on 17th April 2019