Story: Matariki – Māori New Year
Page 3 – Modern Matariki
Matariki celebrations were popular before the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand, and they continued into the 1900s. Gradually they dwindled, with one of the last traditional festivals recorded in the 1940s. At the beginning of the 21st century Matariki celebrations were revived. Their increasing popularity has led to some to suggest that Matariki should replace the Queen's birthday as a national holiday.
When Te Rangi Huata organised his first Matariki celebrations in Hastings in 2000, about 500 people joined him. In 2003, 15,000 people came. Te Rangi Huata believes that Matariki is becoming more popular because it celebrates Māori culture and in doing so brings together all New Zealanders: ‘It’s becoming a little like Thanksgiving or Halloween, except it’s a celebration of the Maori culture here in (Aotearoa) New Zealand. It’s New Zealand's Thanksgiving.’ 1
The revival of Matariki has also played a part in the increasing popularity of the traditional Māori kite (pākau). Hekenukumai Busby, an expert in traditional Māori navigation, has said that the ancestors of Māori, including the Polynesians of ancient history, welcomed Matariki by flying kites.
Accordingly, Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori (Māori Language Commission), in their 2001 booklet on Matariki, suggested that kites could be flown on the first day of the new year. A number of modern Matariki celebrations have involved making and flying kites. In a modern twist, the Hastings festival featured fireworks and hot air balloons, symbolising kites flown from the hilltops by the ancestors.