Sydney, Australia, Jan 4 (efe-epa).- The beginning of the Maori new year, called Matariki, will now be recognized as an annual national holiday, New Zealand’s prime minister announced Thursday.
It will be officially celebrated for the first time on July 24, 2022, and will change annually depending on the appearance of the constellation and the Maori lunar calendar.
Matariki is the Maori name for the Pleiades cluster of stars that rises mid-winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday; a time for reflection and celebration, and our first public holiday that recognizes Te Ao Maori (the Maori world),” Jacinda Ardern said at Northland region’s Waitangi grounds ahead of the country’s national day that marks the founding document signed there on Feb. 6, 1840.
The new public holiday will “acknowledge our nation’s unique, shared identity, and the importance of tikanga Maori (Maori customs). It’s going to be something very special, and something uniquely New Zealand,” Ardern said.
The announcement fulfills the prime minister’s 2020 election promise and solidifies a date increasingly celebrated across the country, but until now, only unofficially.
Maori Crown Relations Te Arawhiti Minister Kelvin Davis said in a statement that the appearance of the Matariki stars “in recent years has become a time of celebration not just for Maori, but for many people across Aotearoa.”
A newly established seven-member Matariki Advisory Group will provide advice on the dates of the holiday for the next 30 years and how it should be celebrated, and support the development of education resources.
“Iwi (tribes) mark the start of the Maori New Year in different ways around the country, so it’s important this holiday acknowledges those regional differences,” group chair Professor Rangianehu Matamua said.
The government hopes that Matariki will also boost the country’s tourism sector once borders reopen, providing a unique mid-winter celebration.
Legislation will be introduced this year to amend the Holidays Act, giving New Zealand a total of 12 public holidays. EFE-EPA