17 August 2020

Upside down or right-side up? Celebrations down under…

I’ve been thinking & reading a lot lately about the history & colonisation of New Zealand & how & why things have become part of the way things are done & celebrated in New Zealand.

One of the things that really started my thoughts towards the things we celebrate is the discussion around Matariki & if we should make it a public holiday here. Celebrations in a society show what we place value on. What we celebrate shows what we honour & what is important to us.

Matariki is the Maori New Year & celebrated in June or July dependant on the moon phases & stars. The first question in my mind was why would the New Year have been in the middle of winter? In my short span of life and due to my cultural bias I understand that New Year is in the height of summer…but for what reason? I had to think this through a bit more. 

The seasons, moon & stars play a big role in your life rhythms when you live from the land.  You are more in tune with so many different parts of the food chain, such as how hard it was to produce or gather that food source, how scarce or plentiful it might be, how long you had to wait for it and whether it was the right season to plant it.

I can imagine that the celebrations and or rest days that each society had would be very closely tied to planting and harvesting, which was what your basic survival rose & fell on. Holidays and celebrations would be in direct relationship with hard work.  

I can imagine that the rhythm of a year tied to the land might go something like this…

Starting with the new hope of spring, with a spring in your step you sense the world awakening, its time to plant & plan and set things in motion.  New life, new birth, lambs, daffodils, things that were hidden or hibernating or germinating spring forth.  Even the word makes sense for this season!

This is a period of hard work, but also enjoyable as you look forward to what is to come. A new year, a new season – HOPE. Excitement of the first fruits of your labour would be a natural celebration in this season.

Then comes summer, the hotter months where maybe you don’t have as much energy, but you can tend to your crops just the little they need and rest and enjoy some summer fun. 
I can imagine some family celebrations fitting into this season amongst the maintenance of your hard spring work.  The summ
er equinox would be the height of daylight & if you slept by the sun then summer wouldn’t afford you much rest. 

Autumn or in American terms Fall (which makes more sense in terms of word meaning – like Spring) would appear to be the next peak of work after the summer lull. 

As you harvest the crops you had planted in spring, your survival of winter is dependant on this season just as much as the beginning of the year.  Another period of hard work as you bring in the harvest, store it, tidy up & finish off the season.  Harvest festival & thanksgiving celebrations make sense in this time period, especially towards the end of the period as a sense of satisfaction would be prominent.

As Autumn/Fall finishes and the days draw closer you body is signalling a time to slow down, hunker by the fire, time to do some indoor projects and learning that the other seasons haven’t afforded you the time for.  I can imagine this would be a time of reflection on the past season,

the good times, the sad times, people who have passed & a chance to decide what you will take with you into the new year & what you will pack and leave in the past.  Matariki as a celebration would fall into this season. 

As I have described these seasons, I feel a sense of natural rhythms, one that our bodies respond to.  It is only in very recent times that society no longer has to base their eating, sleeping & buying habits around seasons.  I can now easily go to the supermarket and buy strawberries in the middle of winter and because of this we are not so in tune with the seasons & how our bodies and society are naturally based around these simple things. 

Not only that, but in New Zealand our yearly celebrations and a lot of our public holidays have been cut and pasted from our colonial past.  Not only do a lot of them not have much relevance to our society or culture today (such as Guy Fawkes!) they were implemented into our calendar without any thought for the fact that our country is in the southern hemisphere with the seasons at opposite times of the year from Mother England who are in the northern hemisphere.  On the surface, this may seem a bit obvious but when you think a bit harder it makes you wonder why we have Easter (which is a Spring festival based around new life) in the middle of Autumn?

The ground swell to celebrate Matariki in New Zealand is a great start & I think it would be good for us to have this as part of calendar.  It is also good to see the reasons behind it and what it is about, being taught in schools so our children and hopefully society has some idea behind the celebration, which give us more meaning that “just another day off”.

I would love to see the discussion go further and deeper though and decide on what the 10-12 public holidays in New Zealand we should have and what they are for.  At the moment a good portion of them are devoid of meaning and don’t fit into our normal rhythms of life.

We have the freedom next year to choose what we celebrate & when we take holidays as we will be homesechooling. I think this is an awesome opportunity to “reset” and decide what our rhythms might look like, which will be totally subject to change & revision.  I have outlined them below as a draft idea.  I have chosen not to bother with marking Queens birthday or Anniversary Day as these at this point don’t carry much meaning for me.  


My suggestions and a bit more explanation of how our family might try to make it work…

SPRING – HOPE                            Sept, Oct, Nov

1.     Easter – a long weekend celebration remembering Jesus death & resurrection.

2.    Arbour Day & Labour Day – use this long weekend to plant a tree & a garden & dig a bit deeper into why both of these days are important.


SUMMER – FUN                            Dec, Jan, Feb

1.     Christmas – a  2 day celebration with family.  Unfortunately tradition Christmas has become commercialised with spend $$$ on junk – that connotation is present even in the name “Boxing Day”. So we will reclaim this as a family day, with no presents – just a good family celebration.  Maybe a day for each side of the family?  

2.    Waitangi Day – based on its historic date we will choose a unique way each year to celebrate this, helping us to understand the past better & what our country is founded on.  This could coincide with a 7-10 day tenting holiday.


AUTUMN/FALL – HARVEST              Mar, April, May

1.     Thanksgiving – a feast with family & friends to remind ourselves of how blessed we are.  Be a good thing here to invite others too who are homeless or struggling.

2.    ANZAC – using this day to be thankful & remember those who have sacrificed for us.  Depending on the child’s age each year will determine what we do.


WINTER – REFLECTION                   June, July, Aug

1.     Matariki & New Year – celebrated with a good meal, friends & family, fire & fireworks.

    Retreat - Rest break – a 7-10 day holiday to re-gather our thoughts & plan, dream & visions for the next year.  A weekend retreat away as a couple could be a part of this.  


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