Matariki and the Winter Solstice

We will celebrate both Matariki & the Winter Solstice with a Fish & Chips night on Saturday, 25 June, in the Studio. $10 per person. BYO and meet us there at 5pm. Let us know before Tuesday 21 June.

Matariki and Yule

Yule (from Old Norse) was a pagan festival celebrated by Germanic peoples (Scandinavia, Baltic countries, Anglo-Saxons, etc). Yuletide is celebrated in mid-winter, the time when the days were shortest, culminating in the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.


During those darkest days, peoples throughout the Northern Hemisphere held feasts. In Western Europe it is often associated with Odin and Jólnir was one of Odin’s names. Yule also has the meaning of ‘feast’ in Old Norse poetry. Yuletide is sometimes associated with a wild hunt with sacrifices of boars and livestock.


Later, of course, Christmas overtook this feast but retained some of the customs, such as yule logs, yule singing and decorating rooms with holly, ivy, yew and pine. Veneration of one’s ancestors, and remembering the dead were a part of at least some Yule traditions.


The Celtic festival of Samhain honours, celebrates and welcomes the descent into the dark, regarded as the beginning of the New Year, acknowledging that all beginnings emerge from darkness. On Winter Solstice, darkness has reached its peak. Then the sun starts imperceptibly moving, and days become gradually lighter.


Matariki (eyes of god) is the name of the Maori Winter Solstice. It occurs when the star cluster known as Matariki (aka the Pleiades), begins to appear over the horizon.


Some iwi look to Puanga/Puaka, known as Rigel in Orion, as the New Year star. It rises earlier than Matariki, and in some parts of the country it’s clearer to see during twilight. This year, Matariki will be best seen between 6th and 13th July.


Matariki is based on the Maori lunar calendar (the maramataka). This is made up of twelve 29.5 day months and a 354-day year. The name Piripi for June means huddled close together and Hongoingoi (July) means being inactive and crouching, due to the cold.


The maramataka tells us the best days for planting and fishing, and also tells us the high and low energy days that affect people’s moods.


Clear, bright stars are a good omen; hazy stars predict a cold, harsh winter. If one star is brighter than another, there will be more kai from the source it represents.


Matariki is a time of remembrance, paying respect to those who have passed on and a time for new beginnings, to plan for the year ahead.


  1. Matariki – signifies reflection, hope and our connection to the environment (Alcyone)

  2. Pōhutukawa – connects with those who have passed on (Sterope/Asterope)

  3. Waitī – ties to bodies of fresh water and the food within it (Maia)

  4. Waitā – ties to the ocean and the food within it  (Taygeta)

  5. Waipuna-ā-rangi – associated with the rain (Electra)

  6. Tupuānuku – is for food that grows within the soil (Pleione)

  7. Tupuārangi – is for food that grows up in the trees (Atlas)

  8. Ururangi – is the star associated with the winds  (Merope)

Hiwa-i-te-rangi – the youngest, is the wishing star that also ties into our aspirations for the coming year  (Celaeno)