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How Can Small Businesses Celebrate Matariki Day?

Published July 6, 2023 (last updated on November 23, 2023) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

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What is Matariki Day? 

Each year in June or July, a cluster of nine stars known as Matariki gradually reappears in New Zealand’s early morning sky.  

Matariki Day is a special occasion in the Kiwi calendar, marking the reappearance of the Matariki star cluster and celebrating the start of the Māori New Year.  

In Māori tradition, the Matariki stars are a sign of happiness, wellbeing, and a bright future. For everybody in New Zealand, Matariki is a chance to reflect on the past year, enjoy the present moment, and look ambitiously to the year ahead. 

Best of all, the entire world can be part of Matariki Day and enjoy the wonder of the cosmos – the star cluster is visible from most parts of the planet.  

When is Matariki Day? 

In 2023 Matariki falls on Friday the 14th of July and is an official public holiday. However, much like Easter, Matariki Day is celebrated on different dates each year.  

Last year, new legislation made Matariki Day an official public holiday. The public holiday dates for the next 30 years are set out in the legislation, outlined in the Matariki Public Holiday Act (2022).

The date always falls on the closest Friday to the Tangaroa period in that year’s Māori lunar calendar, either in June or July. 

The Matariki public holiday

For employers, the celebration of Matariki will be considered a standard national public holiday. This means many of your employees will have the option to enjoy a day off from work and the chance to get in the spirit of Matariki.

The New Zealand Government says the Matariki advisory group wanted the Matariki public holiday to be tied to a long weekend, emphasising its importance as a time when whānau (communities of families) spend time together.

Why is Matariki Day important? 

Traditionally the twinkling of the Matariki stars in the winter sky, clearest just before dawn, coincided with the end of the harvest season.  According to Mātauranga Māori (ancestral knowledge and wisdom), if the stars reappeared brightly, it signified an abundant harvest for the coming season.  

How Matariki Day is celebrated has evolved over time, although its underlying meaning remains unchanged. It’s an important time of year when whānau come together to: 

  • Reflect – It’s a moment to honour those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki. 

  • Celebrate – We gather together to give thanks for the present moment and what we already have.  

  • Aspire – We look forward to the possibilities of a new year and make the plans that help us reach our goals.

For the wider community in New Zealand, Matariki is a great opportunity to appreciate Māori culture and to learn about Māori traditions, customs and stories. 

Matariki Day for businesses

With the first public holiday for Matariki taking place last year, there were widespread discussions about whether businesses would try to ‘cash in’ on the event without acknowledging its true spiritual meaning. Many feared that Matariki Day could easily become commercialised.

Professor Rangi Mātāmua is a scholar of Māori astronomy who played a pivotal role in implementing the Matariki public holiday. Mātāmua says it’s fine for businesses to celebrate the day, providing they respect its underlying values.  

Interviewed last year, Mātāmua claimed that for businesses and people, “the most important thing is that we acknowledge, practice and celebrate a longstanding tradition.” 

What can your small business do to celebrate? 

If you own a small business and only have a modest budget, getting involved in Matariki festivities doesn’t need to break the bank.

Here are a few simple, low-cost activities that can help you mark the occasion, based on Matariki’s three core values:  

Māharatia – Reflect  

Matariki is a wonderful time to slow down and reflect on the year you’ve just had. There’s no reason this can’t be done as a business.  

Set aside some time for your entire team to reflect on the previous year. Make it an open session and a chance to discuss wins and losses. Following Matariki’s theme of gratitude, it’s also a chance for staff to show appreciation for the help and support they’ve received from their teammates. 

Whakanuia – Celebrate  

Māori communities celebrate Matariki by sharing each other’s company, stories and kai (food).

The easiest way to encourage Matariki celebrations in your workplace is to ask everyone to bring kai to share for a ‘potluck’ feast. You could also organise a team ‘hui’ during the meal and let each member of your team take a turn to share their opinion about what about the business is working well in the present moment.  

Wawatatia – Aspire  

One of the nine stars of the Matariki cluster, Hiwa-i-te-rangi, is known as a wishing star. Wawatatia is all about pursuing our hopes and dreams.  

In the workplace, hold a Wawatatia goal-setting session that allows your teams a chance to set their intentions for the year ahead. What business goals do you want to reach collectively? How does each team member want to grow and progress as an individual in the coming months? 

Wawatatia is also about taking practical steps to make your hopes and dreams a reality. Keep a record of everybody’s goals and, where possible, implement practical initiatives to help your staff reach them.  

This year, shoot for the stars!

Whatever you do as a business to celebrate Matariki, make sure you take the opportunity to acknowledge new beginnings and the possibilities for your team. Set goals for the year ahead and don’t hold back – Matariki is a time to be ambitious, so shoot for the stars!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are shops open on Matariki Day?

There is no obligation for copmanies to be closed on Matariki Day, so retail stores, cafes, museums, galleries and other businesses can remain open. However, some council-run facilities will be closed.

As with any public holiday, businesses can close for the day if they wish. Some smaller businesses may choose to do this, since staying open means they will have to pay staff who work time-and-a-half.

Do you know how to manage public holiday pay for employees?

Keeping track of public holiday pay and leave entitlements for employees can be tricky. Our FREE Public Holiday Guide breaks down the essentials and offers businesses a survival guide. 

Download

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