The New Zealand government came through and has kindly provided a very tidy solution to my 101 in 1001 goal of finding a way to have a mid-year celebration to brighten winter. Today is the first ever public holiday for Matariki, which is celebrated in mid-winter, when the Matariki cluster of stars rises and becomes visible – it signals the Māori New Year and is traditionally a time of remembrance, joy and peace.
As a Pākeha family we have never celebrated Matariki before, although it has been more visible and important to us over the last few years. At Amelie’s school they’ve been talking about Matariki for weeks and she’s been so excited (although she was rather peeved when I told her Matariki is not a gift-giving occasion). She’s been singing a song to the tune of the Macarena which ends “heeeeyyyy, Matariki!” which I’m sure is not a traditional song, but is obviously hilarious, and parroting every day, “Matariki is a time to celebrate with your whānau and friends”, so despite this being new to us, we’ve got a pretty solid idea of what we’re meant to be doing thanks to her influence (and this handy-dandy article).
Matariki is visible in the north-east in the early morning, and if the clouds clear we’ll make an attempt to see it over the next few days. We’ll also hang out at home and play some games (Rummikub is the game of the moment in the Judd household), have a family movie night, eat some good food together, and try to see some friends. As I say, this is new for us, but it still really feels like something special already. It’s so nice to have a moment to pause in the middle of winter, in a year which is sprinting by, and take some time to think about what’s been and what’s to come. It’s really nice to have a holiday that’s about spending time with others without gifts – for me, it fills the gap provided by Thanksgiving in the USA (which was my favourite holiday when we lived there). The short week took me by surprise when I realised on Monday that Friday was a public holiday, but now I’m so grateful for it.
Today we went for a long walk along the beach, and it felt so great to have the easterly breeze gently blowing the sea spray up and over us, and to breathe in the ocean air. There were quite a few other people out enjoying the beach and everyone seemed so happy. After a fraught few years it feels good for the whole country to have a reason to smile at others, wish them a happy Matariki, remember those we have lost, and look forward to a good year ahead.
Mānawatia a Matariki!