Saturday 16th is Matariki. Matariki, for regular readers from the northern hemisphere who may not have heard of this before, is a very Aotearoa/New Zealand/Pacific tradition that seems to go from strength to strength – it’s the start of OUR new year.
It’s a bit of a combination of celestial events – the star cluster Pleiades (aka Seven Sisters, Subaru, Messier 45 and – of course – Matariki) reappears above the northeast horizon just before dawn, in combination there’s the first new moon (this year on the 16th) , and this occurs near winter solstice – the shortest day. So it’s a real carnival – Matariki – the summer cluster returns as the first new moon nearest the shortest – cut to the chase: just over the horizon it’s sum-sum-summertime. YAY!
Kiwis wanting to see Matariki need to get out of bed pre-crack of dawn and look to the northeast horizon. If you look up in that direction you should see Mars (yep, it’s red, and like a teeny lcd, it doesn’t flicker). Drop your eyes straight down to the horizon and that’s pretty much where you’ll find this cute little cluster of stars, sparkling like a diamond cluster. Matariki is a real cluster too, by the way, truely seven sisters, and not merely an assemblage of stars like some of those cheap zodiacs – pft – constellations indeed.
So, what to do celebrate the rising of Matariki? It’s a good time to be thinking gardening things – the start of the new seasons. I plan to bring a little of my heritage to the table – garlic – plant it on the shortest day, harvest it on the longest day. I’m writing more on this kind of topic over at Tea Garden. I’m also planning to plant the first of our native garden – in this case one of my favourite trees – a titoki. I’m really looking forward to building a corner of our garden into a celebration of native plants.
A tradition was to fly a kite on Matariki – well, now that works for me too. I’m not 100% sure where my pocket sled kite is, but hopefully I’ll be able to find it in time. Matariki is also a time not unlike the traditional western new year – January 1 – it’s a time for getting together with family – whānau – that fused collection of kindred spirits, celebrating with food and music; of settling differences, and setting new goals – new year’s resolutions – make better health decisions – what to eat, drink, get some exercise, stop smoking etc; make contact with people you haven’t contacted for some time, and maybe learn something new. It’s a time for gift giving, but not in the tacky commercial way that has become xmas, but rather in intangible ways – you gift good things to yourself like taking care of yourself, you gift to others by sharing – by finding something of yourself to give. It’s not about that crass commercialism, thankfully.
So, join us on the 16th (I’m writing this a little early so you’ve got time to make a plan) and launch off into the new year in fine style. By the way, Matariki is like Easter – it’s a moveable feast – and for similar reasons – they’re based on lunar cycles. In 2008, it will be on 5 June. 2009, 24 June. 2010, 14 June. So next year you won’t be caught out – you’ve had heaps of notice.