Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. Every year in June or July the cluster is visible in the Southern night sky and for many Māori this marks the start of a new year.
According to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage the name Matariki means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). In the legend, Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children. This made the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.
In the early days, Matariki was the time to remember the dead and celebrating new life. Nowadays it is also a celebration with a lot of entertainment such as night markets, kites and fireworks.
In Christchurch, one of the most well known Festival of Lights is celebrated in Lyttelton. London Street is transformed with food stalls, music and epic fireworks.
Matariki events in Christchurch:
- Matariki for Kids: Christchurch City Libraries 1 - 30 June
- Matariki celebrations: The Arts Centre 8 June - 22 July
- Matariki: Make a wish tree: Christchurch Botanic Gardens 14 June - 27 July
- Te Whare Maire O Nga Punawerewere Exhibition opening: Eastside Gallery 18 June - 6 July
- Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights: Lyttelton 29 June
- Matariki Whānau Day: Rehua Marae, 30 June
- Matariki Dawn Planting: Rongoa Garden 15 July
Stargazing tours in Christchurch/Canterbury:
- Christchurch Astro Tours, Leeston
- Earth & Sky, Lake Tekapo
- Tekapo Star Gazing, Lake Tekapo
- Big Sky Stargazing, Aoraki/Mt Cook