Celebrating Matariki: Embracing Traditional Māori Foods, Sustainability, and Reflection

Celebrating Matariki: Embracing Traditional Māori Foods, Sustainability, and Reflection

Mānawa maiea te putanga o Matariki.
Mānawa maiea te ariki o te rangi.
Mānawa maiea te Mātahi o te tau.

Celebrate the rising of Matariki.
Celebrate the rising of the lord of the sky.
Celebrate the rising of the New Year.

As the Matariki stars rise in the skies of Aotearoa, it is time for celebration, reflection, and connection with Papatūānuku, its bounty, and the rich traditions that define our cultural heritage.

Matariki is not just about marking the Māori New Year but also a time of reflection, and remembrance of our ancestors while also celebrating the harvest of kai and planning for the year ahead.

In the spirit of sharing knowledge and cultural connections, this Matariki (28 Hōngongoi 2024) we had a wee korero with some lovely members of Mangawhai’s Te Reo Māori class run by Te Whai Community Trust about their celebrations, traditional kai and the importance of kaitiaki (guardianship of this earth).

Hamu Scott-Kelly, Kaiako of Te Whai’s Te Reo Classes is excited about embracing celebrations and learning from Matariki within his class and his whanau.

“The return of Matariki to prominence is an amazing symbol of the depth of Indigenous knowledge systems and part of a wider re-indigenising of our concepts for marking time, which everyone (Māori and Pākehā) can participate in.”

“I believe it is a time to observe signs of the environment rather than the strict calendar months which tell us the seasons are changing, that Tama-nui-te-rā (the sun) has gone to be with his winter maiden (Hine-takurua) and we need to focus on whānau, on wānanga, on connection, and remembering those who are no longer with us,” he said.

“This year, I will be attending a dawn celebration with my daughter at her school, which is being led by her bilingual unit within the wider mainstream school environment and will be getting all of my Tauira to come together to learn Matariki Waiata (Ngā Tamariki o Matariki’),” he added.







Members of Te Whai’s Te Reo Classes sing Waiata at local community celebrations.

Emma, a Tauria of Hamu’s said that Matariki is all about connecting with Te Taiao (the environment).

“I make a habit of getting out for early morning walks in the lead-up to Matariki to tune with the environment and consider what lies ahead of me for the day or week. I also find it is a great time of year to reconsider my shopping choices. This year, I am planning to avoid single-use plastics and to eat more sustainable Kaimoana,” said Emma.

Te Whai Community Trust, is encouraging local community members to create a lantern to remember a special person in their life who may have passed. It could be as simple as cutting out a paper lantern or using a jam jar with a battery-powered mini light inside.










Juno Scott-Kelly, Tauira of Hamu and Love Food Hate Waste NZ’s Communications and Marketing Manager said, for herself, Matariki is about thriving in te ao Māori and practising te reo Māori daily, while also celebrating with good kai.

“Every year, my whanau gather to share kai grown from my Dad’s garden, which includes everything from Kumura to puha (a type of wild cabbage),” she said.

“This year, on the request of my young daughter Rosa, we are planning a traditional hautapu ceremony, in which an offering is made to the Matariki cluster in the form of steam rising from cooking kai,” she added.

In deciding what ingredients should be incooporated into the Hautapu, Rosa’s class looked at the nine starts of Matariki: Tupu-ā-rangi, which signifies food that comes from above; Tupu-ā-nuku, food from the soil; Waitī, fresh water; and Waitā, the ocean.

















Tupu-ā-rangi can be interpreted as both fruit and birds. For many, it is celebrated with the use of chicken.

Local Umu in Mangawhai from Matariki celebrations at Te Whai Community Trust in 2023.

The idea of a Hautapu ceremony is that the best and most appropriate kai is selected and offered for the hautapu.

Once kai is gathered a special oven is prepared, it’s name is ‘te umu kohukohu whetū’, ‘the steaming earth oven of the stars’. Hot stones are heated and placed in the umu and then the kai is put on top, covered with leaves and earth. These food items would be cooked early in the morning before Matariki rises with the steam released at dusk.

From whanau to kai, reflection and remembrance, Matariki is such a special time of year, and we would love to hear how our Love Food Hate Waste community is celebrating! Comment below or share your news with us on Facebook.

If you are after ideas on how to celebrate check out https://matariki.co.nz/

Mā te wā!