Matariki – The Māori New Year

Around the end of May or early June in New Zealand, the Pleiades cluster of stars can be seen low on the north-eastern horizon just before dawn. This cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, carries the Māori name, Matariki. The rise of Matariki and the sighting of the next new moon during June/July mark the Māori New Year.

Matariki means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). Legend tells the story of the sky father (Ranginui) and the earth mother (Papatūānuku), who were separated by their children. Tāwhirimātea, the god of the winds, became so enraged by this that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.

Click here for help in finding Matariki in the night sky.


How is Matariki celebrated?

Traditionally, Matariki was a time to remember those who had passed. But there were also celebrations of singing, dancing and feasting thanks to full food storehouses following crop harvesting and the gathering of seafood.

Modern Māori New Year celebrations were revived in the year 2000 and the popularity of events has grown ever since. Now events to welcome the New Year occur throughout New Zealand, celebrating our unique place in the world, showing respect for the beautiful land on which we live and celebrating the diversity of life. It’s a celebration of culture, language, spirit and people.

When is Matariki?

In 2021, Matariki events and festivities are taking place throughout late June and early July with the official start of Matariki being 2nd July.

Matariki traditions and activities

Kites are often flown at Matariki events as a way to reach closer to the stars

Kai (food) is a big part of Matariki festivities

You may not have the resources for a traditional hangi at home but you can still enjoy some traditional foods like seafood, fish and kumara (sweet potatoes).

Learn about your whakapapa (family history and ancestors)

Create Matariki stars with traditional weaving techniques


Get your free Matariki activity book

For fun kids’ activities, download the printable Matariki activity book from the Te Papa website. Click here.

Sources include Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Do you have any family traditions for celebrating Matariki?

her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”


  1. kymmage 29/06/2018 at 7:38 am

    I love the Matariki celebrations they have via daycares and schools now. My daughters come home with beautiful star related art. Last year they made star cookies in class. Another year they had a hangi (at daycare), that parents could come along to as well. I think our community has a kite making/flying event that happens around that time too. It’s great to have a cultural focus, and a way to learn more 🙂

  2. Bevik1971 27/06/2018 at 2:16 pm

    We had a Matariki event at my daughter’s school, it was really cool. They planted a tree for a teacher who had passed away at the end of last year then had some shared Kai and hung out,was really nice. The local Astrology Association was going to come with telescopes for the kids to do some night gazing, but it was too cloudy in the end. Still a great night 🙂

  3. Mands1980 26/06/2018 at 1:11 pm

    When my children were at Playcentre we always celebrated matariki and did baking related to matariki. Our local school also one year did looking at the stars at matariki and showed them what to look for in the sky the kids enjoyed this.

  4. MuddledUpMolly 25/06/2018 at 9:14 pm

    It is exciting to see our country starting to more meaningfully embrace Maori culture and include everyone in the process 🙂 Our little girl has a matariki celebration at her preschool on Friday which we are all looking forward to 🙂

  5. Shorrty4life1 25/06/2018 at 5:50 pm

    We had a matariki celebration night at the kindergarten with pizza, popcorn and ice-creams for tea the kids choice of food of course. They did lots of cool lighting and the kids went for a walk outside with home made lanterns they made at kindy when it got dark. They also had their Matua come and they sung songs and danced. It was an awesome celebration and the children really enjoyed it.

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