20 Jun, 2022 Matariki – What is it and how might we lean in?

Matariki: What is it and how might we lean in? 

NZ has a new annual celebration and public holiday – Matariki. How could we understand and lean into this as the Christian community?

To keep this very simple: Matariki is the Māori New Year, timed by the Matariki cluster of stars reappearing in our night sky

  • So, what do you logically do at new year?
  • This is a time to
    1. Reflect on the past year,
    2. Celebrate the present
    3. Plan and look forward to the year ahead

About the star formation

Matariki has different names around the world. In English, it is called by its ancient Greek name, Pleiades or the Seven Sisters.

Re the logic of defining a new year as being in the middle of winter

For agricultural societies, it is logical to look at each new year as each new cycle of planting and harvesting crops – which makes ‘new year’ the middle of winter

  • This is true of 1 January as New Year’s Day also – noting this came from the Greek calendar system in the Northern hemisphere, where 1 January is likewise the middle of winter!


In superstition and mythology

Re superstition – The stars of Matariki were also closely tied to planting, harvesting and hunting. If the stars appeared clear and bright, it signified an abundant season ahead.

Re mythology – this SUPERB video explains one version of the mythologies – Click here (4mins)

  • I encourage a view for the Christian that sees mythologies like this as cultural stories, purposed to pass on values. (None that I’m aware of actually believe the stars are the eyes of a god – noting stars are balls of fire).  I encourage that we keep it that simple.


To note: Matariki has no one meaning or timing

In different Iwi the dates of the celebration are different – sometimes for a week, sometimes for a month. The customs and meaning associated with it vary also – except for the central thread that it is the new year, so we (1) look backwards with thankfulness remembering those who have gone before, (2) gathering to celebrate with loved ones today – while (3) looking (or planning) forward with hope to the future.


The celebration explained in simple form – with a Christian understanding

Jade Hohaia has created an amazing approx 4min video with Lorinda Pereira, an amazing Māori leader in Northland, explaining what Matariki means to her in her hapu, and as a Christian. Click here.

The images to the right show you how we are doing this in our own FaceBook posts. Freely use these.

The text we are putting out with images (on the right) on FaceBook is as follows (freely copy, paste / edit):

IT’S A COMMON EXPERIENCE to gaze up at the stars and to feel a sense of ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’. With the arrival of Matariki as a national holiday here in Aotearoa New Zealand, let’s explore some of what this brings to us. As a family of stars, we may consider what it means to be ‘community’ together – with two thoughts coming from Te reo Māori being…“Matariki ahunga nui” (Matariki brings us together) & “Matariki whiria te tangata” (Matariki weave the people together). But Matariki also invites us to reflect on the past year, to celebrate the present, and to plan for the year ahead, as a New Year celebration. All-the-while to carry a sense of hope. There’s a Bible verse that reflects on this … “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?… Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:3-4/9.


In terms of the cultural values Matariki will likely take on here in NZ 

  1. An esteeming of things-Maori as a part of the mix of who we are as New Zealanders, is certainly the overarching point of having this new public holiday
  2. Remembrance – Honouring those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki
  3. Celebrating the present with loved ones – Gathering together to give thanks for what we have
  4. Looking to the future – Looking forward to the promise of a new year
  5. Commercialism – As much as some will protest this, shops will naturally leverage the long weekend – just as has also happened to Christmas and Easter.


Practices that might fit the occasion

Building fires, singing songs and telling stories are apt applications. In the church:

  • Give thanks to God for events of the past months and year
  • Tell stories of those who have gone before us – living by faith, bringing blessing to our nation. They are role models!
  • Gather with whanau / with loved ones / community around food and celebration
  • Look to the future to see where hope and opportunity might lie


“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?… Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:3-4/9.



Jade Hohaia has created an amazing video with Lorinda Pereira, explaining what Matariki means to her in her hapu, and as a Christian.

This video explains one version of the mythologies. Interestingly the idea of separation, pain and hope (because the stars still look down) can sit within this. These are realities we understand globally.

Example Post on Hope Project Facebook Page

Images to use

A summary of resources above:

  • The mythology video for your own awareness – or here (4mins)
  • Jade Hohaia’s video with Lorinda Pereira. Click here.
  • On the right and text in red – freely save images and text for your FaceBook posts
  • …or share the same from our public-facing ‘Hope Project NZ‘ FaceBook page, at which there are various posts annually in each season.

Other blogs by Dave Mann that might relate


An easy-to-read option to educate yourself, elders, children’s and youth leaders – and then all members (children, youth and adults)

  • Consider the illustrated novel series: ‘The Chronicles of Paki – Treaty of  Waitangi Series’. These can be found at BigBook.nz. View a blog with displaying some of its endorsements here.


Waitangi weekend sermon outlines (free)

  • ‘Three Treaties’ (Gibeonites, Waitangi and Jesus) from Dave Mann is (word doc) here, with power point here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Leaving a legacy’ – edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc)  here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Joshua and the Treaty (five treatise)’ –  edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc) here


The Te Reo Pulpit Challenge


DAVE MANN. Dave is a creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing, and also being valued, in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and recently coordinated a 5th nationwide multimedia Easter project purposed to help open conversation between church and non-church people about Christianity take place, including regarding the specifically Christian origins of many of our nation’s most treasured values. Dave is the author of various books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last”, “The Elephant in the Room”, and available for free on this site: “The What and How of Youth and Young Adult ministry”. Married  to Heather, they have four young boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.  

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