This year New Zealand celebrates Matariki for the first time with a public holiday (Friday 24 June). In Māori culture, Matariki is both the name of a star cluster and of the celebration of its first rising in late June or early July each year. This marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar. In this article Jo Hood (Ngāti Pākehā, Visionary/CEO, mainly Ministries) and Elyse Stubbington (Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Apakura, Pouwhiringa to mainly Ministries) share how Matariki is a gift to the church:

The lights created an illusion of the sky, They, the man-made star-like brightness, shone so bright, the created stars where obliterated from view. As I drove past the carpark, the lights appeared like a ceiling. Yet I knew they weren’t the ‘real thing’. Beyond the lights was a sky filled with the glory of God. The stars.

What would it be like to think of Matariki as a myriad of carpark lights? Another public holiday! Time to sleep in, chill out, and shop. What would it be like to experience Matariki, in all the richness it brings? Through investigation, we find a celebration of relationship, acceptance, remembrance, invitation, hospitality, and delight.

Matariki is a gift to the Church of Aotearoa. This is not just another public holiday. This is a moment to walk towards Te Tiriti o Waitangi and partnership.

Te ao Māori has relationship at its core. Gathering, sharing, togetherness. Laughing, kai, waiata. Korero, aroha, future. Doesn’t this sound like components of the Gospel?

Engaging Matariki as more than a public holiday, and through respecting the whakaaro, you’ll discover so much. At mainly Ministries (resource providers of mainly music, mainly play, and mainly babies), through the patience and grace extended by Pouwhiringa, Elyse, we have discovered the gift to Pākehā and Tauiwi of this celebration. But what does it mean to engage, respect, and celebrate? Here’s what we’ve discovered. 


At mainly Ministries, we learnt about the wider context of Matariki. Māori follow a Lunar/moon phase calendar as opposed to the Gregorian/movement of the sun calendar. The lunar calendar that Māori people follow is called the Maramataka; therefore, Māori look to the night sky for Matariki, the constellation, to appear.

I, Elyse, explained how Māori used and still use this expert knowledge for gathering from the rivers using the star (Waitī) or the sea (Waitā), harvesting from the forest, such as birds and fruit (Tipu-ā-rangi) and/or crops/gardens (Tipu-ā-nuku) which is important in terms of the iwi/hapū/whānau wellbeing. They also used the stars to help them read the weather for the upcoming season rain (Waipuna-ā-rangi) and winds (Ururangi). To read as a sign of health or healing (Matariki).

Māori used this knowledge to understand signs through the stars. This sophisticated knowledge of the stars helped Māori navigate Te-Moana-Nui-A-Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), the biggest ocean in the world, which is also recognised as the greatest voyage in human history. 


There are several themes that can be explored within Matariki, and one is kotahitanga. That is, unity, togetherness, solidarity, and collective action. As you prepare for Matariki, here’s how you can respect.

Find out what tikanga should be followed. Example, use a karakia to start your time together and to bless the food. Make sure you’re aware of what practices and procedures can be followed. Such as using kai tables for the purpose of kai, not leaning on, placing bags on, or sitting on. Consider asking people to remove their shoes as they enter your home, both a sign of respect and a health and safety measure.

I, Elyse, created this phrase if you wish to use items from nature as decoration pieces or craft to remind you of tikanga. That is, Pray, Play, Put back.

Pray: Give thanks to God for His resources for us to use. It is a normal view to give thanks for resources and for the harvest. Remember, we harvest sustainably, which honours the Giver of the harvest. 

Play: We can play with things of nature and respect those things we play with. 

Put back: We return nature back to nature.

As Pākehā, why should we do this? I, Jo, want to honour the first people in each land. I believe this is our responsibility as followers of Jesus. We were all created in the image of God. To honour Jesus’ commandment:

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

and to live as a follower of Jesus, requires us to not only know the history of our land (love the Lord your God with all your mind) but also understand and respond from within (love the Lord your God with all your heart). As we journey, we can then respond to Love your neighbour as yourself.


Whakataukī (proverb) - He waka eke noa (We’re all in this together)

We’ve heard We’re all in this together a lot since early 2020. Don’t tune out! Matariki is a perfect time to celebrate and be present with friends and whānau in our community, acknowledging how much we, the local church, appreciate relationships with each other.

Use Matariki to invite neighbours into your home. Ask them to bring kai to share. This might take you out of your comfort zone as most western hospitality in a home dictates the host provides the food. Explain this is the way of Matariki as you invite neighbours to share time with you.

Play games and if you’re confident, sing together. Depending on the weather, sit around a bonfire, fire pit, or brazier and find out more about the people who live in your community. Ask them to share their story without sharing yours. Listen, ask questions fuelled by curiosity. This does not need to be ‘that time’ to share the Gospel story! Be present. Listen to their story and listen to the prompt of the Holy Spirit if you’re unsure what question to ask next.

As a whānau, consider Ephesians 4:3: Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. How are you a united whānau? How are you binding yourselves together with peace? Pray together as you prepare. This is the way of being in the waka together. Draw your tamariki into this whakaaro to seed in them a love for living a life of mission.

(You can read about Matariki Celebration at Ōtūmoetai Baptist Church in this article by Jan Ozanne.)

To close

Matariki, the focus and the public holiday, is gift. If we are to be partners in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we must step into the unknown, and rather than use Matariki as ‘just’ a public holiday, see it as a time when we can embrace tikanga, respect Māori (our partners), and celebrate authentically. Look beyond the ceiling of your own inhibitions and step into the bigger picture of Matariki. That is, the stepping towards what it means to be partners in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

Written in collaboration by:

Jo Hood, Ngāti Pākehā, Visionary/CEO, mainly Ministries, and;

Elyse Stubbington, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Apakura, Pouwhiringa to mainly Ministries


Main: Matariki/Plesides photo by Ben Gracewood on Flickr

Insert: 'Time spent together is valuable' Supplied by mainly Ministries and used with permission

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Read More Articles

Pondering: Why few women are senior pastors in Baptist churches Image

Pondering: Why few women are senior pastors in Baptist churches

“As sole pastor, for over a decade now… I have faced challenges. Some challenges are unique to our specific location, some due to being single…

Pre-election reflection: Gospel view of poverty Image

Pre-election reflection: Gospel view of poverty

What is a Gospel view of the world, and how does it help me decide who I will vote for?

Pre-election reflection: Encouraging people to vote Image

Pre-election reflection: Encouraging people to vote

From a fellow Gen-Z: “if you have enough effort to care, you can tick a box. And if you don’t care, think again. If we…


Privacy Preference Center