The big bang theory

By: Daniel Hutchinson

Daniel Hutchinson
From The Hutch

 Well whanau, our oppressive, overbearing government has forced another public holiday on us and now we must rise up and consider what this means – or not, if you feel like a sleep-in.

Despite this obvious tyranny, I don’t like to miss an occasion, but feel we all need to be on the same song sheet.

There is a real risk that those unfamiliar with the significance of this event will act inappropriately.

The last thing we need is people scattering chocolate eggs all over the place, popping stockings above the scorching log burner or chasing confused turkeys around the backyard, dressed like Freddy Krueger.

This isn’t America, it’s Aotearoa and the beauty of Matariki is that you do have the flexibility to celebrate how you like, within some key themes.

Do it your way

There are quite a few legends of Matariki, but one of the more popular ones is ‘The legend of Matariki and the six sisters – Te ono o Matariki – which you’re able to read at the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand website:

In this particular legend, Matariki, which is known as Pleiades to European stargazers, is the mother of the other stars in the cluster – each of which have their own attributes. It’s a bit like the Spice Girls really.

You have Tupu-ā-nuku who is the gardening one; Tupu-ā-rangi loves to sing,  Waipunarangi accompanies her grandmother to the waters – the oceans, lakes and rivers – where she prepares the children of Tangaroa (God of the sea) to feed the people; Waitī and Waitā are Matariki’s twins; and Ururangi, who reminds us that a good attitude is always key to success.

Matariki herself does what all good parents do – looking out for her tamariki, encouraging, supporting and supervising them so they are the best they can be.

The main themes are kai, whanau, good health and caring for the environment.


As it just so happens, it coincides with my wedding anniversary this year, so two star-crossed lovers will be sitting out on the deck on a frosty night counting the sparkles in each other’s eyes. Or possibly watching replays of ‘Grand Designs’.

What would make this national celebration even cooler though would be fireworks. I know this is a bit of a side issue, and I didn’t see any mention of fireworks in the various stories of Matariki but I’m sure that would have been a thing had they been around then.

The Matariki star cluster we are looking at is about 440 light years away – that’s 100 years before Abel Tasman clapped his beady eyes on New Zealand, 100 years after the moa went extinct and about the same time Māori were forming themselves into the iwi groups we are familiar with today.

So, they are a bit old, and as a big fan of making my own stars, I feel if there was ever an opportunity to move Guy Fawkes-style shenanigans away from the beginning of the fire season to a more suitable part of the year, now is the time.

Instead of children having to wait until 10pm for their half-cut parents to set off explosives, they could do it at 6pm instead. Genius!

Not-so-bright idea

Sadly, it was reported earlier this month that the mātauranga (knowledge) Māori group set up to guide the Government on the creation of the Matariki public holiday have advised that fireworks do not align with one of the core values, which is Mana Taiao or environmental awareness.

Fireworks are frowned upon by the experts because they cause noise and light pollution and rubbish. This sounds like pretty much every party, concert and major event ever staged and I doubt if Ururangi would have been a fan of the no-fireworks policy.

While it’s a massive buzz-kill for all those pyromaniacs out there some councils have gone ahead with the big bang theory anyway and are planning to hold fireworks or light shows – notably the Wellington City Council, albeit with the support of mana whenua.

However you celebrate it, this new public holiday is a welcome addition to the annual calendar – it’s a time to remember those who are no longer here in person, and share time with those who are still with us.

It’s also a great time to set a Matariki resolution, especially if the ones you set on January 1 haven’t gone so well.

Ngā mihi o te tau hau.