Matariki Luke

There are many different
celebrations for Matariki. A
week of activities is offered
here as a guide for those
wishing to celebrate Matariki
for the first time.
The presentation represents
some key themes of traditional
Matariki celebrations, however
it is in no way meant to
undermine or replace existing
tribal celebrations for Matariki.
Welcome to our Matariki
celebrations. We hope you
enjoy this presentation.
In the beginning traditionally, depending on the visibility of
Matariki, the coming seasons crop was thought to be
determined. If the stars were widely spaced, then it would
be a warm season and food would be plentiful. If the stars
were close together and appeared hazy, then it was likely
to be a time of bitter weather and lean pickings.
The significance of
Matariki to us.
To us Matariki means
the beginning of a new
life. A time to prepare
for the new year, time
to learn new things, a
time to share ideas,
and a time to
celebrate the future.
It is also a time to ready the
whenua, and the spring garden
(tiaki whenua) for planting.
A good time to plant new
trees and shrubs that will give
off wonderful energy.
It is also a time to reflect on the
past year. To talk about our loved
ones that have passed on and the
important aspects of their lives.
Matariki makes its first appearance in the
dawn sky. For Maori, Matariki signalled the
end of one year and the beginning another.
Maori New Year celebrations and feasts were
held after the rising of the full moon in June.
Maori regarded the year as having 10 months.
During these 10 months, tribes worked on
their crops, getting ready for the months
ahead. The two remaining months were
known as ‘time off’ months, when the tribes
would turn their attention to other activities
including fishing, catching birds, socialising or
It was said that when Matariki rose, fish
such as the moki and the korokoro could
be caught. Korokoro look similar to eels,
but they have a circular sucker instead of
a mouth, and 7 holes along the sides
behind the head.
Korotete was used to snare Korokoro.
Special nets and weirs were made out of
flax were made to catch korokoro.
Korokoro was a prized delicacy for
Maori. What was caught was eaten
during Matariki or traded for other
Korokoro was also dried for winter
months ahead.
Catching Birds
Kereru or wood pigeon
One of the staples of the Maori diet was
birds, namely, the Kereru. When Maori saw
Matariki rise in the dawn, they would begin
two or more months of hunting and
trapping a large variety of manu, or birds.
Maori had to invent ways of preserving
their kai so that it would last a long time.
One solution was to store the bird in its
own fat (huahua/preserving) inside a
gourd. The women would pluck, clean and
bone the birds, then pack them into
baskets. These baskets would be left in
water until Matariki was seen rising. The
ahi matiti would begin.
Ahi Matiti
The birds were first roasted over a clean
fire of either charcoal or wood embers
that emitted no smoke. The birds were
cooked on racks and the dripping was
collected in a trough. The roasted birds
were placed in a vessel such as a gourd,
the fat poured over them and the vessel
sealed. The gourd would be
decorated with feathers and bone.
Mu Torere
Maori used this time to refine their skills
in the use of the taiaha, patu and the art
of fighting. Young men were taught these
skills which were then passed on to the
generations to come. The taiaha is a skill
that is now being introduced to our young
This was a time when the women of the tribe came
together to harvest and prepare flax for dyeing and
weaving. They spent many hours of preparation
before weaving kete for food gathering and storage,
korowai for wearing and gifts, whariki for personal
use and gifts and kakahu for their tribe or as gifts.
The intricate designs and patterns showed the
many hours of labour that the women put into the
completed article.
This was also a time to learn new waiata, himene
and karakia. Every waiata, himene and karakia had
a specific meaning for each item. The meaning
would come for a very important event that had
occurred in the tribe or a significant event that had
happened in the past year, which had impacted on
the tribe.
The tohunga would chant the words, which were
then listened to a learned by everyone in the tribe,
than passed on the the younger members.
Kite making was a favourite activity for Maori. They
would fly them during Matariki. Some kites were sacred
and could only be made by tohunga. These kites were
thought to be able to take messages to Ranginui. They
were known as Manu Whara.
The kites were of various shapes but mostly were the
shape of a bird. The biggest kites could fly very high and
it would take many people to control them using lots of
rope made from harakeke, or flax. The kite was known as
Manu Tangata could pick people up and fly them short
Everything used to make
manu tukutuku, was
collected from the forest,
beach and the swamp.
Manuka, toetoe, harakeke,
raupo and aute bark were
the most often used. They
were decorated with
feathers, shells and carvings.
Food would be donated by visitors or whanau.
Pork, Mutton, Cabbage/puha, kumara, riwai,
kamokamo, stuffing.
All meat and veges are prepared and wrapped
in tin foil, than placed into baskets.
Special stones would be burned until red hot,
placed in the ground, baskets placed on top,
covered with hesian sacks, clean cloths and
covered with dirt, to stop the steam escaping.
The hangi is cooked for up to 4 hours,
uncovered and served hot.
This is a Maori pudding that can be served hot with cream,
custard or cold with butter or any other topping.
6-8 big fresh and washed kumara
Shallow baking dish
1. Set one kumara aside. Slice this kumara into thin slices.
2. Grate the rest of the kumara using a cheese grater.
3. Place the grated kumara into the greased baking dish.
Sprinkle sugar over the top.
4. Lie the sliced pieces over the top; this will stop the
pudding from drying out.
5. Cook for an hour in an over at 180°C.
A bread that has no yeast in it. You can cook this on an open fire during
Matariki celebrations, but you will need a hot plate and foil to cover it.
5 cups of flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 litre of milk
1. Mix all the ingredients and knead very gently.
2. Roll into a flat circle.
3. Cut a cross into the surface.
4. Place on a hot, floured tray over the fire. Cover with a piece of tinfoil.
5. When cooked and still hot, butter and spread the bread with golden
syrup, honey or jam.
You can store this chowder in a thermos flask to keep hot while you wait for
Matariki to rise.
6-8 large kumara
2 large onions, sliced
1 ½ litres milk
1 med tin of cream
1 sml bottle of whipped
cream or
Sour cream, chopped
Salt and pepper.
1. Wash the kumara and cut into small
2. Boil until you can easily push a fork
into them
3. Place butter in a pan and fry the
4. Drain the kumara and mash with the
milk and a heaped tablespoon of
5. Add the onion and sweetcorn and
slowly bring to the boil. The chowder
should be thick.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve with a dollop of whipped
cream or sour cream on top and a
sprinkling of parsley.
Information sourced from:
• Celebrating Matariki by Libby Hakaraia, 2006
• Google search (Matariki pictures)

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