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Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice is June 21, 2010 11:28 UT (Universal Time). In the Northern Hemisphere the winter is sprinkled with holidays and celebrations: St Nicholas, Christmas, New Year, Epiphany, etc. In New Zealand, from “Queen’s Birthday” (7 June – actually her birthday is April 21!) until the next long weekend (Labour Day) is about five months!!!

[Again and again I read on the web the explanation that winter solstice is “when the sun is farthest from the earth”. That, of course, is false. In any case the sun is farthest from the earth on July 4, not June 21, nor December 21!]


Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades. In the winter sky just prior to dawn this star cluster marks the Māori New Year. This was a time for remembering the dead, and celebrating new life. Now it is marked by kites, hot-air balloons and fireworks. There are different tribal traditions for dating Matariki. Some include phases of the moon. In any case this is the time of year of Matariki.

Liturgical celebrations of Matariki clearly will use te reo Māori. Solstice threads can be incorporated, as well as traditions drawn from the biblical new year, Rosh Hashanah (Leviticus 23:24) including the blowing of the horn (or possibly appropriately the conch shell).

Some obvious hymns are:
Whakaria mai /How Great Thou Art
E te Atua —Alleluia Aotearoa 31
Where mountains rise to open skies — Alleluia Aotearoa 155
God of all time, all seasons of our living — Alleluia Aotearoa 49

Children’s activities can include making stars, kites,…

Further ideas and resources from St Andrew’s on the Terrace (link off this site) and Rainbow Room liturgy from the same church (link off this site)

Image: Matariki taken by NASA (copyright free)

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