In Māori culture, Matariki is both the name of the Pleiades star cluster and of the celebration of its first rising in late June or early July. The Matariki star cluster appears in the early morning sky, just before dawn in Aotearoa (New Zealand) during the mid-winter months.
This marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar and for 2022, Matariki has been made an official public holiday on Friday June 24th.
It is a time to acknowledge the year past, celebrate the present and plan and prepare for the year ahead. Historically the ceremony involved viewing the individual stars for forecasts of the year to come, remembering the deceased of the past year, and making an offering of food to the stars.
Nowadays, people all across Aotearoa come together to remember their ancestors, share food (the hāngi for instance when uncovered releases the food steam as an offering), sing songs, tell stories and play music. Matariki is about reconnecting with your home and whānau
Although the Matariki star cluster contains hundreds of stars, only nine are visible to the naked eye. Each of these nine stars has a distinct name and significance in Māori Culture.