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5 ways to have a heart-healthy Matariki celebration

As the chill of winter settles in, the southern skies begin to shine with the brilliance of Matariki, heralding the Māori New Year.

Matariki is not only a celestial event that heralds the Māori New Year and new beginnings, it's a chance to reflect on your health and hauora (wellbeing) and the wellbeing of your loved ones.

This year, why not embrace the spirit of Matariki by nurturing your heart health and living a longer, healthier life?

What is Matariki?

Matariki, is the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades, and it holds profound significance for Māori culture. Its name, meaning 'eyes of god' or 'little eyes,' speaks to its symbolic role in guiding and watching over humanity.

According to legend, Matariki originated from the eyes of Tāwhirimātea, the god of the wind, who cast the star cluster into the heavens in a moment of divine fury. Today, Matariki represents the unity of mankind on Earth, inviting us to come together to honour our past, celebrate the present and plan for the future.

The Pohutukawa star symbolises that it’s time to say goodbye to those we love that have passed away in the last year. We say farewell and welcome in the new dawn with its many blessings.

The Tupuānuku star represents the food planted in the land, as well as everything that grows within the soil to be harvested or gathered, while the Tupuārangi star signifies the food sourced from the sky. The Waitī star gives us the fresh waterways, and food sourced from the ocean is represented by the Waitā.

When is Matariki?

Matariki can vary a little every year depending on the sun, winter and summer, but with the rising of Matariki comes the beginning of the new year for all of us in Aotearoa. This year, the Matariki festival will be celebrated with events in late June and early July, with the public holiday on 28 June 2024.

It’s a time to show your aroha for loved ones who have left us in the past year and focus on new challenges and fresh hope for the year ahead.

Five meaningful and healthy ways to celebrate Matariki

Cultivate traditional flavours:

Explore the rich variety of Māori cuisine by incorporating traditional vegetables like kūmara, taewa, and taro into your meals. These have the benefit of being both tasty and nutrient rich. 

Connect with nature:

Embrace the spirit of Matariki by reconnecting with nature. Get outside and spend time on the beach, in the bush or in the park. Plant your own veggies or help out at a community garden. 

Pass down wisdom:

Matariki is a time to share wisdom and knowledge, which is a great reason to invite your tamariki into the kitchen. You can share special recipes passed down through the family or even try something new that you’ve never had before. It’s fun and a good way to pass on valuable skills and ignite a love for nutritious home-cooked meals.

Pursue movement:

As Matariki marks a time of renewal, take the opportunity to set wellness goals and incorporate physical activity into your routine. Whether it's a brisk morning walk, a reinvigorating yoga session or a fun dance class, exercise is great for your heart health and mental wellbeing.

Celebrate community:

Just as our ancestors gathered together to weather the winter months, Matariki is a time to come together with your community. Social connection is important for heart health and wellbeing and at this time of year, there are lots of activities and community events to take part in that celebrate Māori culture through kite making, storytelling, arts and crafts.

May this Matariki be a time of reflection, growth and abundance for you and your whānau. Ngā mihi o te tau hou Māori – warmest greetings for the Māori New Year.

If you are keen to learn more about healthy eating, check out our page on eating for a healthy heart. Our Healthy Heart visual food guide also offers useful information in te Reo Māori. For more information about the festivities of Matariki, visit the Matariki Festival website.