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Celebrating Matariki

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– by Marisa Bidois

2022 marks the arrival of the inaugural Matariki public holiday.

The Government has committed to ensuring mātauranga Maori is at the heart of celebrations of the Matariki public holiday, ensuring it will be a time for remembrance, celebration of the present and a look forward to the promise of a new year.

But what long term place will this new national holiday play in the lives and hearts of New Zealanders?

Almost all major holidays around the world revolve around eating special foods together. And for many people, food and the act of preparing certain foods call up memories from bygone years.

Food can also be a defining narrative about us – a connecting point to family and culture, intrinsically linked to place and occasion. It is an integral part of any celebration, regardless of culture or religion and serves to unite and strengthen familial bonds and create a common identity among a group of people.

Whether it be firing up the BBQ for Christmas dinner or dining with loved ones on Mother’s Day, there’s a deep connection between dining and occasions. And often this is linked to specific foods that represent the season, the land and the occasion.

For thousands of years here in the South Pacific, we’ve been celebrating the winter months (Pipiri) by drawing close and feasting.  For Māori it was a time to give thanks for the food of our amazing country Aotearoa/New Zealand. This time was beckoned by the rise of the Matariki constellation and these stars represented the water, earth, ocean, air and the bounty that came from them.

It was a time for renewal, the end of one growing year and the promise of a new one ahead.

The Matariki national holiday should become a time we come together and share food with our friends and loved ones, no matter what our heritage or background.

It’s also a time to acknowledge the manaakitanga or hospitality that is an intrinsic part of who we are as kiwis.

Around the country our industry is already getting behind the occasion by coming up with dishes to demonstrate the Matariki food story on their menus.

This year the Matariki Dish Challenge has been launched in some of our main centres and provides a wonderful opportunity for our local hospitality sector to participate in an event that celebrates Matariki and what it means for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over time we have the vision to develop and support more initiatives like this to make food and dining out an intrinsic part of the celebration. 

In getting behind the occasion, our industry has an opportunity to offer people a way to learn about the occasion through food and showcase our incredible local produce to visitors.

Matariki offers us a unique opportunity to understand and celebrate our local produce as well as traditional methods of preparing food.

If you want to celebrate Matariki in your business this year, we have some inspiration below along with more information and a spotlight on how one of our members is marking the occasion this year.  

If you would like to know more about Matariki you can read this piece by Dr Rangi Matamua a leading expert on Matariki and Māori astronomy, on what it means — and the science that underpins it. 

Member Spotlight:

SUPER, Lyttelton

– Sahni Bennett

How is SUPER Celebrating Matariki in 2022?

“We have celebrated Matariki every year since we opened our doors 5 years ago. Matariki is a time to sync in, to connect with our whānau to feast and thank the gods for the bounty that sits upon us and celebrate those who have left us and release them to the stars. Ensuring my staff understand and share this kaupapa at this time is crucial. Manaakitanga all day every day!”

From the 24th through to the 30th of June we will create a multi sensory journey with Kai, Taonga Pūoro (traditional Māori music & art) which represents our connection to our Whenua.

TE WHĀNAU HAKARI – a feast for four including 
  • Whole local ika 
  • Hangi Kūmara flatbreads with mānuka smoked butter 
  • Organic greens 
  • Kūmara Gratin 
  • Pūhā & Pumpkin boil up broth 

“We will also have a selection of dishes rolling out throughout the week showcasing local and native ingredients incorporating traditional and modern twists on Māori Kai. This encourages our diners to connect with the whenua we are so lucky to be a part of. We will have loads of beautiful beer and wine to showcase brewed by many of the amazing tangata whenua we have here in Aotearoa.”

Have you got any advice for those wanting to take part in celebrations in their own venues?

“It is important to avoid gimmicky marketing banking in on this long overdue public holiday. Connect with your whenua, your staff and your customers and community share what you can & just do your best to honour this time. Support local, intertwine & normalise Te reo Māori . RESEARCH , HONOUR & RESPECT ✊🏾 

Ps there’s actually 9 stars y’all x

What to know where to start? try “little bits”

In 2021 we discussed many aspects of Matariki in this article, This is a section of that article about Rex Morgan (Kai Tahu, Te Arawa), a well respected Māori chef and consultant, who is enjoying the new interpretation of Matariki.

 “Matariki is a celebration of the greatness of Māori”

– Rex Morgan

He believes that we’ve now moved on from the times of our ancestors when the main food was kūmara and seafood to enjoying a bounty of flavours with which to create sumptuous hākari (feasts). 

Rex admits to still learning about the finer points (tikanga) of Matariki, yet despite this he feels that Matariki is a celebration of the greatness of Māori.

Rex believes in “little bits” at a time, doing your homework and making sure that you don’t exploit the holiday, taking time to ensure we remember the fundamental meaning of the occasion. Matariki is unique to New Zealand and totally different in significance to Waitangi day. He believes that as long as your business is celebrating Matariki in a positive way, that’s all that matters. Anything is good as long as it’s done in a respectful way.


Top Tips for Celebrating Matariki:

– Understand the importance of the ingredients including the cultural practices of harvesting and using them.
– Get in touch with local iwi and see if you can work alongside them.
– Use as much local produce as possible and try seeking out some indigenous ingredients.  Have a look at this great list here from Te Ara, the NZ Encyclopaedia.
– Seek out local events you could be part of such as the Matariki Dish Challenge in Rotorua.
– Another great way to honour the occasion is to celebrate with your team. Matariki is a time for reflection and planning for the year ahead, there are lots of ways to honour the time including having a feast with your team. 

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