Celebrate Matariki with Your Students

This kōrero is written in collaboration with the team at Kura Rēhia, a collective who create games, resources and events for a bilingual Aotearoa. A huge mihi to the mahi of Rangi Matamua and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Mānawatia a Matariki!

Mānawa maiea te putanga o Matariki | Hail the rise of Matariki
Mānawa maiea te ariki o te rangi | Hail the lord of the sky
Mānawa maiea te mātahi o te tau | Hail the New Year

Mānawatia a Matariki – Celebrate Matariki!

The rising of Matariki marks the Māori New Year. This year, for the first time, New Zealanders across the motu will have a public holiday to celebrate Matariki. It is a fantastic opportunity to connect to our environment, to te reo Māori, and to the unique and special Māori culture here in Aotearoa. Here are some ideas to celebrate Matariki with your students.

Ako – Get clued up

Matariki is a cluster of stars, visible all around the world and known as Pleiades, Subaru, The Seven Sisters, Messier 45 and many others. The Māori name for this cluster, Matariki, is short for, ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki’, and speaks of the atua (God), Tāwhirimātea (atua of wind and storms) who, in his grief, is said to have thrown his own eyes into the sky, forming Matariki. 

Traditional ceremonies to welcome Matariki often take place on maunga (mountains), marae, communal spaces and homes. Whānau might make a small hāngī, called an ‘umu kohukohu whetū’. As Matariki first rises in the north-eastern sky, many will say karakia (Māori prayers/incantations) and acknowledge those who have passed away in the previous year. 

Tohunga Kōkōrangi (experts in Māori astronomy) read the tohu (signs) in the stars, which offer indications about the season ahead. Lastly, the umu (earth oven) is opened and the rising smoke and steam allowed to rise, offered up as sustenance for the stars of Matariki. Te Mātahi o te Tau (The Māori New Year) is celebrated and acknowledged.

Te Iwa o Matariki (The Nine Stars of Matariki) are:

  • Matariki: Signifies reflection, hope and our connection to the environment. This whetū also has a connection to our wellbeing.
  • Pōhutukawa: Connects with those who have passed on.
  • Waitī: Ties to bodies of freshwater and the food within it.
  • Waitā: Ties to the ocean and the food within it.
  • Waipuna-ā-rangi: Associated with the rain.
  • Tupuānuku: Is for food that grows within the soil.
  • Tupuārangi: Is for food that grows up in the trees.
  • Ururangi: Is the star associated with the winds.
  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi: The youngest, is the wishing star that also ties into our aspirations for the coming year.

To learn more,

Find the Stars in the Sky

If you’re game to get up before sunrise, you can see the stars for yourself. The best place to view Matariki is from a high vantage point, and look East. Find Tautoru, the three stars also known as Orion’s Belt. Follow the line of those stars up to the left and you will see Matariki. Check out this video or this diagram to learn more.

Kaitahi – Share a Meal

Sharing a special meal is one of the best ways to mark any occasion, and Matariki is no exception. Even if you aren’t a pro at preparing a hāngī, there are plenty of ways to include kai Māori (Māori food) in your kaitahi. You could make some iconic parāoa parai / frybread, or follow Uncle Pare’s recipes for parāoa koroua / ‘old man’s bread’, ‘chicken anything soup’ and citrus cake. For more inspiration, check out Naomi Toilalo’s videos on Whānaukai and the Māori TV series Life of Kai.

Learn a Kaikōhau – An Expression of Hope

(from https://www.reomaori.co.nz/)

Kaikōhau means to express your hopes and desires. When you say it, you are welcoming all things that are good and wishing for them to be plentiful in times to come. ‘Hua’ (fruits) references all things that are good. This can be the food laid out in front of you, it can be your mahi (work), health, whānau and friends, and many other things in your life that you hope to be fruitful and abundant.

It’s a perfect phrase to say during Matariki celebrations as you prepare for the new year ahead, and you can use it for any occasion where you want to bring in goodness and abundance. You can learn more here, including translations of the kaikōhau to learn in around 50 languages.

Here it is in te reo Māori:
Nau mai ngā hua | Welcome all things that have grown
Nau mai ngā pai | Welcome all things that are good
Nau mai kia nui | May they be plentiful
Kia hāwere ai | and abundant

Tākaro – Play

Matariki has always been a great time to play. With the days shorter than ever, and traditionally occuring after the year’s main harvest, playing games is a great way to celebrate.

  • Kaupapa is the ultimate board game for learning te reo Māori. It’s a word description board game (think Articulate, Charades, Taboo) with three levels of difficulty to challenge every learner. It can be played in cooperative or competitive groups, so is a fantastic game to play in class.
  • There are now five editions of Tākaro, a fantastic card game to learn Māori words by looking out for matching pictures on cards. 
  • There are many matching games with beautiful illustrations by Kāi Tahu artist Xoe Hall. Use these card games to learn Māori words by playing memory, ‘Go Fish’, or use them like flash cards.
  • Jump onto Kahoot and play this Matariki Quiz.
  • Here’s another Matariki quiz.
Hei Mahi – Fun activities

Matariki has traditionally been a great time for getting creative. The Manu means both ‘bird’ and ‘kite’ in Māori, and kites were traditionally used for a myriad of uses. Matariki is the perfect time to look skyward, and for our kites to take to the skies. Learn how to make a traditional Manu Tukutuku or a simple kite. Or, create decorative stars with harakeke (flax) or 6 point stars, 8 point stars or puffy stars using paper. 

Mātaki – Watch
  • Watch ‘The Sandman’ use sand to tell the origin story of Matariki.
  • Watch the mini webseries, Living by the Stars: Matariki.
  • There is a rich tapestry of Māori cinema, historical and contemporary. Check out The Matariki Collection on NZ on Screen, which includes iconic Māori television, film and music, old and new.
Waiata – Sing

Sing along to these waiata about Matariki

Matariki is a fantastic opportunity to have your class and school buzzing and connecting to Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge & wisdom). 

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