Matariki in Arrowtown

Arrowtown’s annual Matariki celebration

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Not sure what Matariki is all about? Well, Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades, a cluster of stars that rises at this time of year, heralding the start of the Māori year. For traditional Māori, the return of Matariki was a time to remember those who had died in the last year. But it was also a happy event – the harvest was in and with plenty of food in the storehouses, Matariki was a time for singing, dancing and feasting. You could think of it as a cross between Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve and the Day of the Dead.

On Thursday 27 June Arrowtown families and visitors will gather together under the stars to mark a modern Matariki. The evening will start with a traditional welcome and karakia (prayer), and Arrowtown Primary School's kapa haka teams will perform and the children of Arrowtown Preschool will sing Matariki songs by candlelight.

During the evening more music will be supplied by local musicians – starting with the band Choice before singer/songwriter Peti Seuili takes over. Magical glowing faeries will wander the crowds, fire dancers will show their stuff and paper lanterns will be released into the sky at regular intervals.

Chances are it'll be a cold night, but there's no need to get chilly because there will be lots of hot food and drink. Stalls will offer barbecue food, winter soup, cheese rolls and homemade apple pie, not to mention Vietnamese food from the Banh Van and hot nuts from Frank Goes Nuts. Warm up with glühwein (mulled wine) and hot chocolate from Chard Farm, or try a special brew from Arrowtown's Lake & Wood Brewery. And the kids will just love toasting marshmallowy s'mores at the braziers.

Arrowtown's family-friendly Matariki celebration is a fixture on the local calendar, but it started only a few years ago. It grew out of the Arrowtown Preschool's Matariki celebration, when the village's littlies would learn Matariki songs and sing them outside the preschool with candles. Afterwards they released lanterns and the whole group ate together. It was an atmospheric night that brought the community together at a bleak time of year, and it quickly became so popular there wasn't enough space for everyone.

In 2017 organisers moved the celebration to a bigger site in central Arrowtown and opened it up to the public – and it has gone from strength to strength. This year it will be held in the Ramshaw Lane car park from 5 pm to 7.30 pm on Thursday 27 June. It is a fundraiser for the community-run Arrowtown Preschool that started it all.

Wrap up warm, join the fun and find out what the Arrowtown community is all about! Please don't park in the Ramshaw Lane carpark that evening, organisers are hoping for a car-free event.

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