A Traveller’s Guide to Matariki

Want to know more about Matariki – a.k.a the Māori new year? You’re in luck! We’ve put together a guide that will answer all of your questions, from What is Matariki? to Where can I see it? and How can I celebrate it? – we’ve got you covered…

What is Matariki?

Matariki is the name for the traditional Māori new year which occurs between late May and early June. Similar to Chinese New Year, the exact timings vary each year and begin with the reappearance of the Matariki star cluster. When this star cluster rises, the celebrations begin on the first full moon that follows.

Matariki has many legends behind it – the most common being the story of a mother called Matariki and her six daughters (representing the 7 visible stars). Another legend tells the story of how Tawhirimatea, the god of weather, tore his seven eyes out and threw them into the sky after founding out that his parents had been separated. For any travellers keen to learn more about these legends, take a look at this video:

When is Matariki 2019?

This year, Matariki will begin on 25th June.

Quick facts about Matariki

  • There are roughly 500 stars in the Matariki cluster but only seven are visible without a telescope
  • Matariki is one of the closest star clusters to Earth
  • The Matariki star cluster is also known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters
  • Early Māori settlers actually used the star cluster to navigate the ocean during some of the first voyages to New Zealand!
  • Matariki used to be a way to predict the upcoming harvest – the brighter the stars, the better the harvest would be.

Where can I see Matariki?

If you’re a keen stargazer and want to spot the Matariki cluster for yourself, the trick is to look to the north-east horizon and find the Orion’s belt constellation. From there, look northwards for a faint cluster of tiny dots and, voila – that’s Matariki!

The Matariki star cluster

If all of that sounds a bit confusing, here’s a great step-by-step video from the Wellington Te Papa museum:

To find out more about New Zealand’s best stargazing spots, check out our blog!

Where to celebrate Matariki in New Zealand?

Traditionally, Matariki is a family occasion. It is a time to come together and reflect on the past. The connection with the stars represents how families can remember and connect to their ancestors who have passed away to the heavens. It’s also a happy event that celebrates the cycle of life and death with plenty of food, singing and dancing. As a traveller, there are plenty of events to get involved with no matter where you are in New Zealand but the most notable events are held at the Te Papa museum in Wellington. From concerts and cultural performances, tree planting, art exhibitions and astronomy workshops at local planetariums. Find out what’s going on near you.

Stargazing in NZ is an experience like no other

Want to celebrate Matariki in New Zealand, learn more about the Māori culture or just spend your nights stargazing? Don’t miss out on our awesome travel deals!


Tara

Originally from Birmingham, UK. Favourite Stray stop: Tongariro National Park. Fun fact: she has done every Bungy Jump in New Zealand.

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