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In the Māori language Matariki is both the name of the Pleiades star cluster and also of the season of its first rising[1] in late May or early June - taken as the beginning of the new year.[2].


Maori traditions

There are two explanations of the name Matariki: either mata-riki (small eyes)[3] or mata-ariki (eyes of a chief) and the constellation was important for navigation and timing the seasons.

The first rising of the Pleiades and of Rigel (Puanga in Māori) occurs just prior to sunrise in late May or early June. The actual time for the celebration of Matariki varies, some iwi (tribe or clan) celebrate it immediately, others wait until the rising of the next full moon, or the dawn of the next new moon - and others use the rising of Puanga/Rigel in a similar way[4][5].

In traditional times, Matariki was a season to celebrate and to prepare the ground for the coming year. Offerings of the produce of the land were made to the gods, including Rongo, god of cultivated food. This time of the year was also a good time to instruct young people in the lore of the land and the forest. In addition, certain birds and fish were especially easy to harvest at this time.

Recent revival

Since The Māori Language Commission began a move in 2001 to "reclaim Matariki, or Aotearoa Pacific New Year, as an important focus for Māori language regeneration" it has increasingly become common practice for various private and public institutions to celebrate Matariki[6][7] in a range of ways[8] and over the period of a week or month anywhere from early June to late July.

National holiday proposals

With the wider recognition there have been proposals to make Matariki an official holiday in New Zealand - in particular Māori Party MP Rahui Katene's private member's bill 'Te Ra o Matariki Bill/Matariki Day Bill' drawn from the ballot in June 2009.

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