Ways to celebrate Matariki with your family

Matariki is a time for growth and change. It’s a time to pause and reflect on the year behind us and the year ahead. It’s a time for people to take a look at their lifestyles and health, and make some changes for the better.

Matariki stars

Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It rises in mid-winter and for many Māori, it signals the start of a new year. Matariki is a celebration of people, culture, language, spirituality and history.

Matariki literally means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki).

One Matariki story is about when Tāwhirimātea god of the wind discovered that his parents, Ranginui the sky father and Papatūānuku the earth mother, had been separated. He tore out his eyes in anger and threw them into the sky – the stars are his seven eyes.

For many Matariki is a chance for celebration and kotahitanga. Here are five things you can do over the next month to help improve your health and wellbeing while enjoying the Matariki festivities.

1. Cook with traditional Māori vegetables

Acknowledge the value of healthy kai as a taonga for achieving wellbeing. Traditional vegetables include Kūmara, Taewa (Māori potatoes), Kamo Kamo, Taro, Puha (similar to cabbage) and Uwhi (yam). These vegetables can be used in combination with other ingredients to make delicious and healthy meals for whānau and friends.

2. Explore the outdoors

Matariki was a time to learn about the natural world. Today, one way we can embrace this tradition is by creating an edible garden. Growing your own veges, fruit or herbs is simple and satisfying. It’s a fun way to keep active, eat well and learn about seasonality. You may be able to offer some helping hands at a community garden in your area.

3. Spend time with kids in the kitchen

It is important for children to learn the skill of cooking. During Matariki, tribal traditions and teachings were traditionally passed from one generation to the next. Now is a great time to get together with children and teach them to prepare recipes that have been passed down as favourites in your family. 

4. Set exercise goals

Along with eating well, physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It increases your quality of life and your sense of wellbeing. Embrace the theme of new beginnings - take time to set exercise goals and develop a plan to achieve them.  

5. Get involved

People gathered together during Matariki to survive the winter months. There are many exciting events that take place throughout the Matariki Festival such as kite making, storytelling, dance performances, arts and crafts. Keep an eye out for events in your community and enjoy spending time with your whānau and friends.

Keen to learn more about healthy eating? The Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart visual food guide is available free in a variety of languages, including Te Reo Māori.

For more information, visit the Matariki Festival website.