Celebrating Matariki 2019

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As we head towards the shortest day of the year and often the coolest time of year, there doesn't seem to be a lot to look forward to in the Southern Hemisphere. But in New Zealand we have our own version of Chinese New Year, known as the Maori New Year or Matariki. 

Matariki is an nine star constellation also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, and in June and July, they come into clear view in our Southern Hemisphere night skies after having gone into hiding towards the end of May. 

The story behind Matariki is a beautiful one. Matariki is a time of remembering those who have passed, giving thanks for the blessings we have, preparing for the year ahead and for higher learning. Traditionally in Te Waipounamu (South Island), particularly on Te Pātaka a Rakaihautū (Banks Peninsula) the cold months were the time of the Whare Wānaka (Wānanga) – schools of higher learning.

Matariki tribal celebrations are held at different times by different iwi (tribes). For some, feasts are held when it is first seen. For others, it is the full moon after it rises that is celebrated and for others, celebrations are centred on the dawn of the next new moon. Each winter the stars of Matariki and Puanga (Rigel) signal the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

Matariki is also known as the Pleiades constellation of stars. It rises in the pre-dawn sky in June or July each year. This time in the Māori lunar calendar (Maramataka) is called Pipiri which means ‘to draw close’.

Matariki was a time for renewal, the end of one growing year and the promise of a new one ahead. There are nine stars in the Matariki constellation, four of which are directly related to food;

Tupuānuku – this star is connected to food grown in the ground

Tupuārangi – associated with food which comes from the sky & other elevated food products, such as fruit and berries from the trees.

Waitī – this star is connected to fresh water & all of the creatures that live within rivers, streams and lakes.

Waitā – this star represents the food gathered from the sea.

If you are visiting Christchurch during this time of Matariki, we recommend looking for events that are happening to celebrate this special time of year. 

Where to find Matariki in our Night Sky

This video shows you exactly where to find Matariki once it re-appears in the night sky around June 25th this year.

Secret Life of the Stars, June 10, Lincoln Event Centre

Come along to this free event and find out about Matariki and the evolution of the stars from Karen Pollard, Associate Professor from University of Canterbury.



Followed by a talk about the observatory at West Melton and the Dark Sky by Dr Euan G. Mason, Professor from University of Canterbury. You can register for this free event here

25 June - 7 July 2019 - The Arts Centre

During this year's Matariki, the Arts Centre will be holding a number of events including:

Check out the links above for more information on each event.

Christchurch Libraries Matariki Events

Visit the events calendar on the libraries site here to see all the planned Matariki events for the next month or more. These are being held at libraries around Christchurch, including the central library Turanga in Cathedral Square. 

Matariki Night Walk at the Styx, Saturday 29 June 2019 6:30pm – 8:00pm 

Celebrate Matariki with a lantern-lit family night walk beside the Styx River, in partnership with the Styx Living Laboratory Trust and CCC.

Explore one of Christchurch’s newest parks by night at this family event. Darkness transforms the natural world into a different place. Your guides will point out the special features and creatures that reveal themselves only under the cover of night.

The walk will take about 45 minutes and is suitable for pushchairs. This special night time walk will finish by gathering around the fire to sip hot chocolate and listen to stories. And a gold coin donation to the Styx Living Laboratory Trust would be appreciated.

Dress warm with sturdy footwear. You are encouraged to wear dark, non-rustling clothes – the magic comes alive if we are quiet! Bring your own handmade lantern or a torch.

You can make your own tea light lanterns by attaching string or wire to a jam jar to make a handle. Decorate the jar with coloured tissue paper. Or go to http://www.kidsfest.co.nz/lantern-making/ for more instructions to make your own lantern.

Numbers are limited to 50, so you need to register for this event here 

Kai and Culture, Wednesday 3 July, 5:30 - 6:45pm, Arts Centre of Christchurch

Food tells a story. A story about where it came from, who produced it, and its journey from source to plate. We all share in the experience of food: it connects a diversity of people, places and ideas. But what is our Aotearoa New Zealand food story? Who eats what and why? How does food shape culture and culture shape food?

Matariki is time when tangata whenua traditionally celebrated the harvest season, so it is an apt time to discuss feasts, food fundamentals and identity. Join contributors from Freerange Press’s Kai and culture: Food stories from Aotearoa, as well as Michael Reynolds of Roimata Food Commons and Jade Temepara, in discussion with Erin Harrington (University of Canterbury), as they explore some of the current issues involved in the growing, making and eating of our food.

Before the panel discussion, visit the Teece Museum’s Fantastic Feasts exhibition within the Arts Centre. This exhibition explores food in the ancient world, examining what the ancient Greeks and Romans actually ate, the connections they believed existed between food and the gods, and the feasting traditions they developed both to bring their communities together and to set them apart.

Doors open at 5pm - Panel Discussion begins at 5.45pm til 6.45pm

NB: Teece Museum’s Fantastic Feasts exhibition is free to view.