Mānawatia a Matariki – Celebrate Matariki

Ōpōtiki Playcentre families celebrated Matariki on Saturday afternoon, with whānau and friends sharing traditional hāngī. Playcentre families gathered together on Friday evening to prepare the vegetables, stuffing and meat to be put into the hāngī pit on Saturday morning. A special thanks to the whānau who put our hāngī down for us: it was cooked to perfection. In traditional Playcentre style the children of all ages had lots of fun together, from just catching up with friends to playing in the sandpit and face painting (always a favourite). The children were also treated to storytelling with a tale about Matariki. The real show-stopper later in the evening was a demonstration Wei Mei Leong (One of our Playcentre mums) gave with her fire poi. This was a fantastic event to bring our Centre together and celebrate the special bond we share as a Playcentre whānau.

Justine Hennessy, Opoptiki Playcentre

Image shows: Wei Mei Leong with her fire poi

Every year we love to celebrate Matariki with our Redwood Playcentre community, our annual evening event invites alumni, siblings and extended whānau especially Dads who often aren’t able to attend morning Playcentre sessions.
For weeks tamariki prepared a special Matariki star grotto, with dazzling lights, star decorations and ngā huru-feathers containing future aspirations and remembrance recordings. We also made kai for the next days session, one day a pot of soup, pumpkin scrolls and healthy seed crackers. Our tamariki love baking!
A highlight was our borrowed telescope to gaze north-east, we were able to see Jupiter and although we are budding amateur astronomers we hoped some of the stars we traced from Orion’s belt were Waiti, Waitā, Waipunarangi, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Ururangi, Hiwa i te rangi or Pohutukawa belonging to the Matariki cluster!
Tamariki and adults alike shared various gluten, dairy free delicious pizza inside, while the sky darkened outdoors. Our Dad’s kept vigil over our fire, stoking the embers of our ahi-fire under a canopy of whetu-stars. Tamariki excitedly helped skewer marshmallows onto rosemary branches, ready to have a turn toasting within the safety of adult supervision, a hose and inside our sandpit!

In essence our Matariki celebration fosters whanaungatanga strengthening the collective. Celebrations like these create stronger connections between centre whānau who both attend sessions, those who don’t and those that attend on different days. We noticed many tuakana-teina relationships blossom, school age tamariki bond with our teina and we are proud these relationships endure over time and continue to commemorate Māori New Year with us each year!

Naumai haeremai e Te Whānau Tupu Ngātahi o Belmont, Wood Hatton, Wainuiomata me Maungaraki, kua eke mai nei ki te marae o Wainuiomata.
Welcome to all of you who have ascended on to the marae of Wainuiomata to celebrate the season of Matariki. We gathered in Te Puna o te Ora, te wharekai. Whāriki were spread out on the floor and our tamariki and mātua sat down. Our kaiako from Wainuiomata Playcentre was playing the guitar for the mihi whakatau. Playcentre whānau observed and listened to all the different early learning centres and schools performing their kapahaka items for hundreds of tamariki, mātua and kaiako. For some of the manuhiri, visitors, it was the first time that they had been to a marae. Many of the tamariki found it an awe inspiring experience. The tuakana were standing up so that they could get a better view. The first rōpu to perform were an early learning centre with two male kaiako, they did the haka, “Ka mate, ka mate” Ka mau te wehi!

Most of the tamariki were totally engaged, staying in the same space for nearly two hours. Ka pai koutou! For some of the whānau from Wainuiomata, they could see their tuakana performing with their schools.
Whanaungatanga – connecting with whānau in the community, with other centres, schools, marae, hapu and iwi.
Manaakitanga – there were people from the kura who were helping out with various tasks in the kitchen, cooking fried bread and sausages and offering kai to parents and tamariki.
Toi Māori – Schools had brought in their artworks to display in the wharenui and foyer. Matariki meant reflecting on the past, remembering those who have passed away, celebrating with whānau and friends – to enjoy kai, waiata and haka, to harvest kai and gardening.

Our Matariki celebration is my favourite social event of the year.
We gather in the evening in our nature playground and light a fire in our fire pit.
We picnic on pizza for dinner and then as it gets dark we gather around the fire for stories, waiata, and roasting marshmallows.
Our tamariki love being out in the nature playground in the dark and are excited to roll in the grass, climb over the rocks and play in the mud kitchen with torches and headlamps.
Our older children make kites and lanterns during the week and bring them along to our celebration.

By Kat Lester – 2019

Across New Zealand, different Playcentres have been celebrating Matariki with songs, stories and role-play, sparklers, glow sticks and lanterns, soup, star biscuits and marshmallows. Across all their stories, one feature blazes brightly: the fire.

The families at Rolleston Playcentre have a strong tradition of get-togethers outside of session time, as Renee Lyons, Mum to Max (5) and Gus (2), explains. ‘We know how to have fun after hours. Traditionally we have an end-of-term barbeque and invite Dads and extended whānau along.’

The first rising of Matariki, which signals the Maori New Year, was an occasion for such celebration – after hours. And what better way than with fish and chips and a fire? The children also had lanterns – glass jars decorated with tissue paper and sequins, with real tea lights inside. ‘The LED lights were more expensive, and we considered the learning that goes with having a real flame: you have to be careful and you can’t blow on it.’

As Renee shares, ‘we had around ten families attending, including Dads and siblings, and we just hung out around the fire’. In many respects the evening was all about the ‘wee fire’, not least because of the warmth it offered on a fresh winter evening.

There is something unmistakably ‘Kiwi’ about sharing fish and chips with friends and toasting marshmallows over a fire; but the occasion prompted discussions about other cultural traditions that families observe. ‘We had a parent from Argentina share a tradition around seeing in the New Year, where they write one bad thing from the year that has been, as well as one hope for the year ahead’, shares Renee. ‘I love it how our families share their special traditions and their creative ideas.’

‘Our after-hours get-togethers definitely strengthen and broaden relationships’, says Renee. ‘The kids love having their Dads or siblings there and get excited about seeing each other outside of “Playcentre time” – especially when it’s dark!’

Focusing on something as vast and dazzling as the universe and the stars, the significance of this ‘wee’ celebration was indeed far-reaching: it promoted discussion about different cultural traditions; it brought together different generations of people; it acknowledged the collective investment and commitment of families; and it created lifelong memories.

But, in the light of the darkness, the celebration was meaningful and magical because, quite simply, it was about people coming together around the fire. As Renee points out, ‘it’s the simple things that matter to kids’.

And speaking of the fire, she adds that, ‘in their excitement, the kids were really sensible and safe around it.’

Wainoni Playcentre whānau celebrated Matariki this year with new activities and visits. The theme of Matariki had special meaning for us this year as it signalled a rebirth of our Playcentre. After a year with only three families keeping the place running, term two found us suddenly with a full house of fresh, new enthusiastic families! Our tamariki took part in a collage activity over a period of two weeks, which resulted in the creation of our own constellation of colourful, twinkling stars which hung from our rafters. In true Matariki style, some of our parents started planning an edible garden for the spring. Were planning to plant out vegetables in recycled car tyres against our sunny boundary fence. We made use of the free activities provided by the Christchurch City Council during Matariki by taking our tamariki to the Christchurch Art Gallery and Linwood Public Library. Fantastic fun was had by bouncing on Inez Crawfords Bouncy Marae, and our tamariki were captivated by some of the art works exhibited in the Travelling Light exhibition which was full of (works depicting) star maps, sea journeys and night flights. In the same week our whānau also visited Linwood Library for a Matariki themed preschool story time and star activity.
Sarah Gallagher, Wainoni Playcentre

Image shows: Iris eating her Matariki biscuit at Linwood Library

To celebrate Matariki, Pokeno Playcentre has been busy. On the 4th June our children each made their own loaf of paraoa takakau (Māori bread). How delicious! We all enjoyed eating it up with jam and honey. On the 5th June we looked to our garden. We carefully weeded and turned the earth, and then planted potatoes, with little sticks to tell us whose was whose. In this way, we learned about our earth and how we can work with it to nourish ourselves.
Sara White, Pokeno Playcentre

Image shows: Reuben Stanfield digging out the weeds.