Social Issues

New Zealand officially celebrates Maori New Year for the first time

Sydney, Australia, Jun 24 (EFE).- New Zealand on Friday celebrated its first indigenous national holiday by marking the Matariki or New Year, in a bid to recognize the cultural legacy of the indigenous (Maori) communities of the country.

“Today we take another meaningful step forward in understanding what makes us unique as a country, and what holds us together as a nation,” the Prime Minister of New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori langage) Jacinda Ardern said in a statement after participating in a traditional ceremony early on Friday to mark the beginning of thenew year.

The indigenous New Year, which varies according to the reappearance of the Matariki (Pleiades) constellation – marking the beginning of the lunar new year for the Maoris – is an occasion for the indigenous communities to remember the dead, celebrate life, honor their ancestors and plan for the upcoming year.

The Maoris, who currently represent around 17 percent of New Zealand’s 5 million inhabitants, have named the occasion after Pleiades or Matariki, meaning “god’s eyes” or “little eyes” in their language, which consists of seven or nine stars as per traditional beliefs.

According to Maori mythology, the origin of Mataraki, which can be seen almost throughout the year in New Zealand but stops diseappears for around four weeks in the winter before reappearing in late June, began when the sky father Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the earth mother, were separated by some of their children.

One of the children, the god of winds Tawhirimatea, plucked out his eyes in anger and threw them into the sky, creating the constellation, according to the indigenous myth.

Pleiades holds great significance for many cultures, such as Latin American indigenous communities, the Greeks and some Eastern cultures, apart from also being mentioned in the Bible.

The celebration also dates back to Maramataka, the ancient lunar calendar of the Polynesians that the Maoris used when they first arrived in Aotearoa (New Zealand) around 1,000 years ago, many centuries before the British colonizers landed on the islands and signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 recognizing their rights on the land.

Matariki will be celebrated as a national holiday for the next three decades, as par of a decision taken by the Ardern government last year, fulfilling an electoral promise to honor the “te ao Maori” (Maori world view) in New Zealand by incorporating indigenous traditions in official ceremonies. EFE


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