Wellington: New Zealand will celebrate its first public holiday that recognises the Maori world view on Friday.
Matariki, the Maori New Year, is already widely celebrated in the country, but a law passed earlier in 2022 made it an official holiday.
Matariki is the Maori name for the Pleiades and refers to a cluster of stars that rises in the Southern Hemisphere's mid-winter.
Matariki is a time of unity, renewal, celebration, and hope, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan said.
"With the challenges we have all faced in recent times, it allows us to come together with whanau [family] and friends to pause, reflect and look optimistically to the future."
Matariki provides New Zealand with an opportunity to embrace its distinctive national identity and establish its place as a modern Pacific nation, she said.
"So, whether it's connecting with loved ones and community, taking time to reflect, or caring for our environment, this is a day for all New Zealanders."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will take part in a pre-dawn hautapu ceremony at Te Papa museum to officially launch the holiday on Friday.
The ceremony involves the cooking of food connected to the nine stars of Matariki. Steam from the food is released to feed the stars, and tohunga (experts) look to the appearance of the star cluster and make predictions for the year ahead.
Te Papa's Maori co-leader Arapata Hakiwai said the Matariki public holiday was a dream come true.
"Over the last 20 years, iwi (Maori people) in residence at Te Papa have spoken of their wish for Matariki to become a nationwide celebration for all New Zealanders," he said.
"There will be a lot of people in our thoughts this year, looking down on us and thrilled that we are coming together as a nation to celebrate Matariki."
Some Maori name the time of year Puanga or Puaka, after the bright star also known as Rigel. There are also areas where the setting of Rehua, also known as Antares, is used to identify the change of season.
The calendar date for the Matariki public holiday will shift each year to align with the maramataka - the Maori lunar calendar - and will always be on a Friday. — dpa