Matariki Festival

The old Maori traditions come alive again for one month during the Matariki Festival in Auckland. It’s a can’t-miss event packed with entertainment, celebrations, sights and sounds. Complete your trip to Auckland, New Zealand by spending some time at the festival.

Matariki is the new year celebration of the Maori. The name comes from the Maori word for the Pleiades, a cluster of stars with an intriguing mythology. One tribe believed the center star was the mother and the surrounding six stars were her daughters, all of whom arrive to help the sun, which has been weakened by winter, return from its journey. The appearance of this celestial body, often around late May or early June, marked the beginning of the calendar year for Māori people. Historically, natives commemorate this date with massive celebrations, however, that tradition began to die down in modern times - that is, until the Māori Language Commission made it a goal within the past decade to revive Matariki celebrations.


The Matariki Festival features exciting events all over New Zealand and invites people from around the globe to take part. This festival occurs in Auckland. he activities continue throughout June with neighborhood fairs, cultural performances, live music, exhibitions and, of course, lots of delicious traditional Maori food. While many events change each year, there are some Matariki staples that can’t be missed:

Dawn Karakia

The festival typically starts off with Dawn Karakia, a gathering atop Maungakiekie - or “one tree hill” - just before sunrise to greet the start cluster during its first sighting. It’s a beautiful sight to behold: The moon is at its closest point to earth, and the natives take part in Karakia, which are incantations and prayers that call for guidance and protection from the spirits. As the moon disappears, the sun rises, and the new year officially begins, the community sits down to breakfast together.

2degrees Kapa Haka Super 12s

This event may have a complicated name, but the gist of it is pretty straightforward: 12 teams comprised of 12 creative performers compete for 12 minutes. The participants bring their most inventive moves to the stage, incorporating traditional Maori dance with modern techniques. The winning team, chosen by a panel of judges, takes home a $10,000 cash prize, and runners-up also receive awards.

Matariki Wānanga-a-kai

This popular food forum focuses on Kiwi kai cuisine with demonstrations from some of the best chefs in the area. In 2012, for instance, renowned chef Charles Royal cooked up some of his traditional Maori recipes, teaching attendees his own tips and techniques. And 2013 featured Anne Thorp, who has been dubbed the “Maori Queen of Cuisine”. Guests get to enjoy these unique creations while enjoying live musical entertainment by authentic Maori artists - in 2013, famed singer/songwriter Hinewehi Mohi gave a stellar performance. Visitors hoping to attend this event should purchase tickets well in advance, since it tends to sell out fast.

Native Noise

Native Noise exposes guests to the customary music of the Maori, as well as more contemporary stylings. Performers may play traditional folk music, which often incorporates dance and poetry, but the event also features famous acts that specialize in reggae, hip hop, rock ‘n’ roll and other modern genres. In 2013, for instance, roots-reggae master Che Fu and The Krates graced the stage.

Manu Aute Kite Day

Manu Aute Kite Day, presented by the New Zealand Post, is the most popular family event of the festival. It celebrates an ancient Matariki tradition - kite flying symbolizes the connection between earth and the spiritual world. This event typically takes place on the last weekend of the festival, welcoming visitors to fly their own kites or just relax and watch as others let theirs float in the air. There’s also kite-making workshops, face painting, performances and hangi food (it’s cooked in a pit oven warmed by heated rocks).

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