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Matariki and Cancer Season: A Time of Reflection, Renewal, and Cultural Celebration

2024: This year, we celebrate Matariki on the 28 June - Cancer Season runs from 21 June to 21 July annually

 Celebrating Matariki, the Māori New Year, during Cancer Season (around late June to early July in the Southern Hemisphere) is both a cultural and astronomical event that holds deepening significance in New Zealand.

Matariki is known as the Māori New Year

Closely connected with the Maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), the reappearance of the Matariki stars in the early morning sky brings the past year to a close and marks the beginning of the New Year.

Ancestral knowledge and wisdom is at the heart of celebrations of the Matariki public holiday and it will be a time for -

  • Remembrance – Honouring those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki

  • Celebrating the present – Gathering together to give thanks for what we have

  • Looking to the future – Looking forward to the promise of a new year

Historically, 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.

Here are some fun and respectful facts about this Celebration

Pleiades rises with the Winter Solstice in the Season of Cancer

Matariki marks the rising of the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters.

This event signals the beginning of the Māori New Year. In the Southern Hemisphere, this occurs during Cancer season, typically late June to early Julyon or close to the three days of the Winter Solstice.

Cancer is a zodiac sign associated with home, family, and nurturing, which aligns beautifully with the themes of Matariki. 

Matariki was traditionally used as a guide for planting and harvesting crops, influencing agricultural practices, and ensuring sustainable living and survival.

Our Matariki celebration is a time for gathering with family, remembering ancestors, and planning for the future.

The Pleiades star cluster is celebrated in many other cultures and parts of the world

In ancient Greek mythology, it represents the Seven Sisters, daughters of the Titan Atlas.

Matariki or the Pleiades Star Cluster was celebrated by the ancient Greeks, Inca, Indians, Celts and still is in parts of the Pacific.

The Pleiades cluster appears in Japanese culture as Subaru, symbolizing unity, and connection, and is prominently featured in the automotive brand’s logo.

In Native American traditions, such as those of the Navajo and Cherokee, the Pleiades are linked to agricultural cycles and storytelling, often seen as a group of ancestral beings or children.

The Inca in South America and the Celts in the Northern Hemisphere celebrated Matariki or the Pleiades Star Cluster and it is still celebrated in parts of the Pacific.

In Hawaii, the Pleaides cluster is known as Makahiki, in Samoa as Mata-ali’I, and in Tahiti as Matarii’l.

Across these diverse cultures, the Pleiades have inspired myths, guided agricultural practices, and served as celestial markers for seasonal changes.

Each of the Pleiades stars has a ancient role for survival 

Nature and Mother Earth

Matariki is a time to appreciate and give thanks for the natural world, our Mother Earth who supports and nourishes our existence.

Harvest, Reflection, Gratitude

In our country, Matariki traditionally coincides with the end of the harvest season.

  • It is a time to reflect on the past year

  • To give thanks for those who have passed over 

  • To acknowledge achievements and challenges and

  • To set intentions for the year ahead.

The stars are seen as a guide for planting and harvesting, emphasizing a connection to the environment and sustainable practices.

Cultural Heritage

Matariki is a period of cultural renewal, connection and strengthening of the Maori culture.

It is an opportunity to pass down stories, songs, and traditions to younger generations, ensuring the preservation and continuation of Māori culture and language.

Community, Unity, We are One

The celebration fosters an annual sense of community and unity.

People come together for feasts, ceremonies, and festivities, reinforcing social bonds and collective well-being.

A Symbol of Purpose and Renewal

Matariki is often seen as a symbol of renewal and new beginnings

The return of the Pleiades to the night sky signals a fresh start, much like the Cancer Season represents emotional growth and security and new cycles in life.

Celebrating Matariki in Cancer Season is a rich and meaningful tradition that encompasses astronomy, culture, community, and environmental stewardship, making it a unique and cherished time of year in New Zealand.

This period marking the Māori New Year, brings people together to honour the past, appreciate the present, and look forward to the future, all while deepening their connection to the natural world and each other.


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