Matariki 2023: What’s on and how to celebrate Māori New Year

Publish Date
Thursday, 13 July 2023, 9:54AM
Auckland's Viaduct Harbour is home to a special light and sound display from creative director Tuhirangi Blair from July 7-23 in honour of Matariki. Photo / Bryan Lowe, Auckland Council via NZ Herald

Auckland's Viaduct Harbour is home to a special light and sound display from creative director Tuhirangi Blair from July 7-23 in honour of Matariki. Photo / Bryan Lowe, Auckland Council via NZ Herald

New Zealanders gather across Aotearoa each year to celebrate Matariki, the Māori New Year.

Matariki refers to the cluster of stars that rise in the middle of winter, known in other cultures as the Pleiades. Iwi across the country celebrate the beginning of a new year at different times and in different ways.

It’s a time to gather for food and celebrations, to honour those we have lost over the past year, and to make future plans. In 2023, New Zealand is set to celebrate a public holiday for the second time in honour of Matariki, this year on Friday, July 14.

Throughout the month, countless celebrations and workshops are being held across the country - and here are just a few things to do to celebrate, from festivals, to food, to family-friendly events.

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Feast Matariki

Presented by Eat New Zealand and Ngāi Tahu, Feast Matariki is running once again in 2023, this year from July 9 to July 23.

The event includes several Mahika Kai workshops throughout the South Island, to help teach people about traditional Māori practices of gathering, growing and using natural resources for food and medicine.

Coordinator Reese Harrison (Ngāi Tahu) explains that mahika kai (”to work the food”) is an essential part of Southland’s food story, pointing out practices like oystering, fishing and diving.

“It’s important to raise awareness around these practices for the longevity of harvesting and sustainability of these species ... I’m excited to be part of a movement to raise awareness of Matariki, our Māori New Year, and the importance of Mahika Kai.”

People can attend workshops in Otautahi/Christchurch), Otepoti/Dunedin), Rakiura/Stewart Island), Awarua/Bluff) and Murihiku/Southland), to learn how to prepare kai like tītī/muttonbird), inaka/whitebait), ika/fish) and tūna/eel.

You can get your tickets here.

Matariki degustation dinner

Food plays a huge part in the celebrations each year, and now celebrity chefs Kasey and Karena Bird are hosting an outdoor dining experience throughout Matariki including the long weekend.

The sisters are known for winning MasterChef New Zealand in 2014, and for creating food that honours their heritage. Now they’ve designed a four-hour degustation dinner hosted by Te Pa Tū in Rotorua, featuring nine dishes representing the stars of Matariki, as well as cultural performances and entertainment for diners.

“This is an opportunity to present our kai in a unique way, to be enjoyed with some storytelling throughout the evening,” Kasey shares.

“We are also excited to be working with Te Pā Tū chefs – of Māori and international whakapapa who are passionate about sharing what Matariki means to them.”

You can book your spot here.

An example of kai that will be enjoyed at the Matariki feast at Te Pa Tū in Rotorua. Photo / Supplied via NZ Herald

A day at the movies

Silky Otter Cinemas will screen several essential viewing movies from Kiwi directors in an event designed to bring families and film buffs together to celebrate Matariki.

Iconic New Zealand films MauriNgātiUtu Redux and Patu! will screen at Silky Otter theatres in Ponsonby, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, Wigram, Ōtautahi/Christchurch and at the brand-new location in Papaioea/Palmerston North.

You can get your tickets on Silky Otter’s website.

Matariki Festival Day

If you’re in Auckland and looking for a free, family-friendly way to celebrate and learn about Matariki this weekend, then why not head along to Matariki Festival Day?

It’s an immersive one-day celebration taking place at Auckland Town Hall and Aotea Square on the public holiday, Friday, July 14.

The event will see the iconic Auckland venues showcasing art, culture and kai throughout the afternoon. You can see dance and kapa haka performances, explore food trucks or stalls showcasing work from Māori designers, creators and gaming experts, or tune in to panel discussions from various Māori experts.

The event will run from midday to 6pm on Friday, July 14.

Vector Lights for Matariki Festival

Auckland’s Harbour Bridge will light up for Matariki from Tuesday, July 11 to Wednesday, July 19 in a visual display that will be visible from countless locations throughout the city.

With the official opening at Silo Park on Tuesday, July 11, the iconic landmark will light up throughout the week from 6pm, with the show repeating until midnight.

The 15-minute light and sound display tells a story from iwi partner Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, with the theme Ahi Kā roa - “burning fires”.

Matariki at Auckland Zoo

Auckland Zoo is celebrating Matariki with activities and learning sessions for kids available throughout the school holidays.

Round up the kids this weekend for a visit to the zoo with a twist - there are Matariki-themed sessions for young children to learn about some of the wildlife taonga/treasure we’re lucky enough to have in Aotearoa. Auckland Zoo’s conservation team will host 15-minute sessions to teach kids about conservation and their favourite animals.

You can also share kai at the on-site cafe Te Puna, or bring your own.

The Matariki activities are included in ticket prices and are on offer from July 1-16 during the zoo’s regular opening hours from 9:30am to 4:30pm.

2023 Rā Manu Aute - Kite Day

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is putting on a fun day out this Saturday at Bastion Point to celebrate the tradition of kite-flying.

In Māori tradition, manu aute - kites made from the aute plant, manu tukutuku - long-tailed kites, and manu taratahi - kites with one plume, were used to carry messages between tribes and to the heavens.

Bring the kids along to fly kites or to watch the colourful display. Kai will be available to buy, or you can bring your own and have a picnic.

This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission. 

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