The good days on which you can’t beat Wellington have officially retired for at least a few cold, blustery months.
Let’s not kid ourselves − it’s gonna get miserable.
Most of us live in draughty old houses where you can still feel the southerly on your face as you shiver in bed. Parents with high-energy children are staring down barrel of months of effort to stay sane while they bounce off the walls. Yes, we be layering so fashion gets a win; but turns out those boots you were told would definitely keep your feet dry definitely don’t.
But at least we have Matariki. The beautiful Māori New Year, a shining beacon in what would otherwise be a dark, directionless time. Every year in June or July (this year between July 13–20) a cluster of stars known as Matariki (also the Pleiades) reappear in the skies, signalling to Māori whether the coming season will be warm and abundant or somewhat bleaker.
At that time, people gather with whānau and friends to reflect over good food, music and games. It’s a wonderful celebration, and one that − luckily for those of us who didn’t grow up knowing about it − has enjoyed increasing exposure in recent years. These days, the Matariki calendar is packed with free public events including musical performances, star-gazing events and storytelling − even the annual fireworks display has come to join the party. Parents all over the city are thankful − no longer must we ferry the kids into town on the bus for a Guy Fawkes display at the hellish hour of 9pm.
The older I get, the grumpier I become over holidays that originate in the northern hemisphere and are translated to the absolutely wrong climate here at the bottom of the world. The historical roots of Easter lie in a pagan celebration of spring, and yet we trade eggs and bunnies in autumn. Halloween comes from the ancient Celtic pagan festival Samhain, marking the end of summer, a bountiful harvest season and the beginning of the cold months – and we dress up as ghouls and beg for sweets in spring, when the coldest months are behind us.
Have you ever wondered why your New Year resolutions fail every single year? Do you think it might have something to do with the fact that you’re trying to make goals and plans at a time of year that is all about excess and frivolity? Who wants to reflect and take stock when the sun is shining and the beach is calling? Who can drink/eat/smoke less when everyone around you is living it up like they’re rolling with Bacchus?
Much better to do all of this at Matariki. To gather the people you love around you, to eat delicious, hot food. To reflect on what you’ve all achieved, to remember the people you lost on the way, to celebrate those who came into life and to plant the seeds of plans and goals that will spring into being as the world starts to warm again. Matariki happens at exactly the right time because it came about in this very place.