At this time of year, the constellation Matariki appears in the north-east sky.
Known to the ancient Greeks as the Pleiades, to the Hawaiians as Makaliʻi, and to the Japanese as Subaru, the re-appearance of these ‘seven sisters’ often coincides with the Southern hemisphere's winter solstice - the shortest day, and the Maori New Year.
Matariki has been important to tangata whenua for generations, and in recent times more New Zealanders are embracing the celebration.
Here are some ways you can mark the changing season and year, and enjoy our musical selections to get you in the mood.
Gather round the fire
First things first - it's cold.
Whether it’s the wood burner in your house or a bonfire on a freezing beach somewhere, warming yourself by a fire has is one of the most primitive and satisfying ways to celebrate the passing of the winter solstice.
And what better accompaniment to the roar and crackle of the flames than a reminder of the weather you’re trying to escape?
Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons paints a picture of wind and sleet.
Salina Fisher’s Rainphase, inspired by the Wellington rain, makes us want to snuggle up by the fire even more.
Look up! See if you can spot the stars of Matariki, or the Southern Cross which appears high in the sky during winter. Here's astronomer Richard Hall talking about the Matariki cluster.
Fill your ears with Leonie Holmes’ wonderful Solstice, which evokes the many winter rituals performed over millennia.
Hold a Matariki feast
Grub’s up! Matariki is a time of both looking ahead to the arrival of spring, but also celebrating the fruits of the last harvest.
Gather your friends and loved ones and be thankful for the blessings of the past year – here are some Matariki recipes to get you started!
Kaanga Wai (Fermented Corn) - tastes a bit like porridge!
At the same time, you can warm your ears with some mellow jazz, or go full Southern Hemisphere with a mid-winter Christmas party, accompanied by music from the NZSO's Christmas Pops, and some seasonal jazz to get you in the mood!
Gathering together and sharing entertaining tales is common around the world. It's perfect for this time of the year, and there are many Matariki stories to explore.
The seven stars can represent a mother (Matariki) and her six daughters, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waipunarangi, Waitī and Waitā, and Ururangi. Find out more from our friends at Te Papa
Another popular story is The Seven Kites of Matariki by Calico McLintock. Gather the whānau and listen as Acushla-Tara Kupe tells the story.
Remember those who have passed
While this is a time of new, it's also a time of remembrance.
Acknowledging our tupuna - those who have gone before us - connects our present to the past. It can help bring a little perspective to things, which can be a good thing when we’re shivering through yet another winter.
Remembrance is a favourite theme of classical composers.
Mahler’s Totenfeier (literally “Funeral Feast”) is essentially a giant funeral march.
John Tavener’s Exhortation and Kohima is a serene setting of Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’ – “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old”.
And David Childs’ Requiescat looks back at the passing of a dear friend.