Matariki, a gift for us all
Matariki (the start of the Māori New Year) might become an official public holiday in 2022. I think that's a fantastic idea, as our society needs relevant, meaningful and collective celebrations.
In the old days seasonal celebrations and holidays used to connect people to the hemisphere and the land they lived in. Modern life in a technological world though made us drift away from this notion, as many holidays are not linked to natural events anymore, like the start of spring or midwinter, but celebrate cities (Anniversary Day), historical or political events (Labour Day, Waitangi, Guy Fawkes) or prominent persons (Queens’ Birthday). Only Christmas, Easter and Halloween still have their roots in the pagan calendar of the wheel of the year, but have been assimilated, first by Christianity and later mainly by commerce and trade. Unfortunately, these celebrations who were originally inspired by the changing rhythms of the seasons, of dark and light, don’t fit the natural cycle of Aotearoa, as they originated and evolved to what they are today in the Northern hemisphere at the other side of the planet. Furthermore, the indigenous Māori celebrations, who were born at this side of the planet and perfectly fit the natural tides of Aotearoa, have been neglected and only recently re-acknowledged.
Connecting to nature
Thus, what a marvellous idea it is to turn Matariki into a public holiday, to brighten up the dark midwinter time and collectively mark this turning point on the wheel of the year, when the light conquers the darkness once more. That it is important to connect with nature and the land we live in, might have become more obvious again during these Covid times, when we are all thrown back onto our own private little spot on this earth – maybe craving for some time in the park or at the beach when locked down in the city, or rediscovering our own garden and backyard when living rural.
For the well-being of people and their communities it is not only important to connect with the land and it’s natural rhythms, but it is equally important to connect with each other. This is where the special strength of a public holiday kicks in, allowing us to come together and celebrate as families and larger communities. It is through these communal moments in our lives that we create our shared culture and the traditions that are part of it. It’s through these collective celebrations that we create memories, for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren, through centuries and across generations, …
A gift to us all, a circle completed
Turning Matariki into an annual public holiday is therefore not only an appropriate way to honour Māoritanga, but it is also a beautiful gift to everyone living in New Zealand today, whatever our ethnicity may be, as we all move through winter at the same time in this particular spot on earth and as our complex society desperately needs new, respectful ways to connect, with our natural environment and with one another. What makes it even more meaningful is that this ‘new’ way is at the same time a very ‘ancient’ one. A wonderful circle completed!