There are many ways to celebrate!
There are many ways to celebrate!

ĀteaJune 27, 2024

‘More to connect us than to divide us’: How tauiwi are celebrating Matariki

There are many ways to celebrate!
There are many ways to celebrate!

Tauiwi (non-Māori) are taking cues from their own heritage and Māori traditions as they prepare to mark Matariki, the Māori new year. Eda Tang speaks to those celebrating in their own way.

With many non-Catholics celebrating the Gregorian New Year, there’s no reason why non-Māori shouldn’t celebrate, observe or acknowledge Matariki, the Māori new year. Two years on from Aotearoa’s first Matariki public holiday, signs of the celebration are ubiquitous, from public exhibitions to classroom teaching to workplace hāngī. This is how some tauiwi are celebrating Matariki this year. 

Wong Liu Shueng (Haina) 

Photo of Wong Liu Shueng wearing an orange silk skarf
Wong says with Māori and Matariki, there’s more to connect us than to divide us. (Photo: Eda Tang)

“There are a lot of people who, just as I do, sit out Christmas day because they don’t believe in it. But I believe in having a meal and we divvy up what we’re going to bring and we arrive kind of scrubbed up and we’re up for conversation with all the family…I feel very much the same with Matariki.” 

Instead, Wong’s veneration rituals for whānau who have passed are focused around the Qing Ming Festival when she visits her family’s graves in Carterton where she grew up. She brings Wet & Forget, a brush and pale, some food offerings, flowers and joss sticks [incense] and has her routine down to a tee. “I’m really happy about talking about dead people… I think you carry them with you and they’re a part of you all the time.” She also carries joss sticks around with her everywhere. 

“It’s all the same stuff, you talk about people who have died, you talk about your ancestors, you talk about your future plans, you eat yummy food… I think it’s human nature and we need to do that. For people who don’t have families, they need to be dragged into a family and offered a celebration. 

“The numbers will increase of our diversity and we need to have that opportunity for people to understand that some people can think of the world in a different way and this is one of those opportunities. With Māori and Matariki, there’s more to connect us than to divide us.” 

The Batu Family (Piripaina) 

Family of five, standing in front of a religious painting..
Teo had his confirmation last Sunday just ahead of Matariki. Batu family, pictured from left clockwise: Tiago, James, Thea, Tiana, Teo. (Photo: supplied)

Nine-year-old Teo is one of three Batu children who moved to Aotearoa last year from the Philippines for school. “I learnt Matariki last year at my first school in Glenfield Primary. We did some fun activities like make some paper crafts, like lanterns and stuff.” He tells me that it’s the Māori New Year and that he’s going to perform the Matariki Macarena song at school this week with his ukelele. 

To celebrate the New Year in the Phillippines, Teo says the family goes to his grandpa’s house to have dinner. “We have a lot of nice things and we can see the fireworks.”  His older brother Tiago adds it’s a time to eat traditional Filipino food like pancit (stir fried noodles) and lumpia (spring rolls) which also make appearances at family gatherings and Christmas. 

Following suit, six-year-old Tiana says that on Friday, they’re going to eat together as a family. “We’re maybe gonna go to a bay or the city.” They’re not sure what they’re going to eat yet, but Teo wants corndogs. Tiago says, “just like any restaurant that we can find that’s affordable and good for all of us.” 

Daniel Organ (Ingarani, Hāmoa) 

Man in graduation regalia.
Organ just graduated from his te reo Māori diploma. (Photo: Eda Tang).

“Last year my dad died, my aunty died and I split up with my partner so I will take a moment to remember them all,” Organ says. He just graduated from his level five diploma in te reo Māori on Tuesday. “I will gather my son and parents, mum and stepdad, to have a shared kai to celebrate that, but also them. They are in their 70s and 80s and you just don’t know how long you will have them,” he said.

“I have also been inviting Pākehā mates to go for a beer to catch up. They don’t understand Matariki but they know that catchups are important. So they are enjoying Matariki without even really knowing. When you try to explain Māori concepts, it can be perplexing but if you start framing it in a Pākehā context first, it helps them adjust.” 

He’s also setting goals. “I want to be a good dad to my son and help him reach his potential in all areas of his life as well as support his development in his reo…And eventually find someone special again. I’m just too busy with my te reo mahi kainga at the moment to have any time for a relationship, but it will happen eventually.” 

Katia Coelho (Īnia, Marēhia)

Matariki is a time to look up from the ground, literally and figuratively. (Image: Supplied) .

Coelho is looking forward to having a weekend in Whaingaroa (Raglan) and learning about the pūrākau (stories) from the region. “We’ll make boil up on one of the nights and fry bread, but other than that, it’s kind of just visiting and paying respects.” She’s hoping to observe the rise of Matariki with her friends and learn from the sky for a bit. “It is chaotic at the moment in the city for work and people struggling with work… you don’t even have time to look up.”

She says she still has a lot to learn about Matariki. “When we were in school we learned to pray in te reo Māori and count to 10 but other than that, [learning about] culturally important things like Te Tiriti were quite minimal in comparison to what I hear a lot of kids learning about now… Probably after this phone call, I’m going to deep dive into what the whole premise of Matariki is.

“Being a third culture kid, although I may not be as connected to my customs and my culture, I think it’s important to celebrate it and acknowledge it as a holiday, not just as a three-day weekend.” Coelho grew up Catholic as a South Indian Malaysian, and feeling like she didn’t belonged here nor there, she’s always looked for common ground rather than differences. 

How are you celebrating Matariki this year? Comment below.

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