Matariki - the Māori New Year

Matariki symbolizes Māori new year under the Māramataka - the Māori lunar calendar. Each star holds a certain significance over our wellbeing and environment, as seen from Te Ao Māori (the Māori view of the world). Historically, these stars were closely tied to planting, harvesting and hunting. If the stars appeared clear and bright, it signified an abundant season ahead.


Matariki takes place in New Zealand's mid-winter from late May to early July. The dates vary according to tribes and geography and dates shift annually to align with the Māramataka. This year (2024) the Matariki public holiday will be observed on Friday 28 June, marking the reappearance of the constellation. The best time to view the Matariki cluster is early morning, just before dawn.

Aronui Wines, Nelson | Photo: Chocolate Dog Studio
Aronui Wines, Nelson | Photo: Chocolate Dog Studio

Matariki has different names around the world. In English, it is called by its ancient Greek name, Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. In Hawaiian it is Makali’i, ‘eyes of royalty', and in Japan it is Subaru, meaning ‘gathered together’.

One way to celebrate Matariki is to gather your friends and whānau (family), and toast with a glass of wine.  Manaakitanga, (ma-naa-key-tung-a) which is loosely translated as hospitality, is one of the core values of the Māori culture and has particular significance to the wine industry since it’s all about bringing people together to eat, drink and interact with each other. Manaakitanga also includes care and respect for the natural environment and is practised by the majority of wineries throughout New Zealand, as is kaitiakitanga (kye-tea-ar-key-tung-a), another core value of Māori culture relating to guardianship of the land to protect it for future generations. Kaitiakitanga is a belief that natures resources belong to the earth, and people are welcome to use these resources, as long as they do so respectfully.

Matariki star cluster, New Zealand | By Earth & Sky

The New Zealand wine industry is also embracing Te Reo Māori (the Māori language), with many winegrowers making a deeper connection with Māori culture and values by recognising the significance of their land, the history and relationship with the people. There are plenty of ways to say ‘cheers’ in many languages, but can you take the conversation further in Te Reo Māori?

Many places in New Zeland have Māori names that evoke elements of the natural environment, some including;

  • Mānia – Plain, stretch of land
  • Moana – Sea or large lake
  • Motu – Island
  • Wai – Water

Many New Zealand wine-producing areas are near rivers and bodies of water, so you will find the Maori word ‘wai’ included in many place names like Wairarapa (glistening waters), Waipara (muddy water), Waitaki (weeping waters / water of tears) and Waiheke Island (the descending waters) – all winegrowing regions of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Reo Māori that can be used in celebration of Matariki:

  • Kia ora - cheers
  • hui- gathering, meeting
  • manuhiri- guests, visitors
  • whanau - extended family
  • hākari – feast
  • ki te hauora pai – to good health

Terms associated with the wine industry:

  • bottle of wine - pounamu wāina
  • sparkling wine - wāina pango
  • glass of wine - karaihe wāina
  • wine tasting - te tihi wāina
  • wine bottle - wāina waina
  • white wine - wāina ma
  • wine list - wāina waina
  • red wine - wāina whero

About the Matariki cluster

The two meanings of Matariki both refer to stars: mata ariki (eyes of god) and mata riki (little eyes). Tāwhirimātea (the god of the wind) was so upset that his parents Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuānuku (the earth mother) were separated by Tāne Mahuta (god of the forest), that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the sky, creating Matariki.


The nine stars of Matariki:

The nine stars of Matariki

Is the mother of the cluster and encourages gathering of all people.

Watches the skies, rains, snows, sleets which nourishes the earth and contributes to the water cycles.

Is the winds of North, East, South, West.

Represents cultivation from above: forests, birds, trees.

Represents cultivation from the earth: kawakawa, kumara, healthy soil etc.

Watches over the fresh water environments and everything living in it. Creeks, rivers, lakes, springs which then flow into Waitā.

Represents the salt waters. Seas, oceans and everything living in it.

Is known as the wishing star. Where you cast all your dreams and hopes for the new year.

Is the star of remembering our passed ancestors. Our family and friends who have died.

Each environmental star has a male/female adjacent, giving a masculine and feminine balance. Without one, there is no other.
They're also strategically placed, Waitī (freshwater) flows down from the mountains into Waitā (Saltwater) which is why the freshwater star is above the saltwater. Waipuna-a-rangi (rain) falls from the sky but can be manipulated by Ururangi (winds). Hence, the rain star is above the wind star. Same can be said about Tupu-ā-rangi being above Tupu-ā-nuku.

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