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June 26, 2016

Midwinter Celebrations

Maybe, just maybe, mainstream New Zealand is beginning to dispense with the idea that Midwinter in the Southern Hemisphere needs the idea of 'Christmas' attached to it.

The celebration of Matariki the Maori new year, is becoming more common amongst the wider community with its seasonal relevance. Kitty's school, Ao Tawhiti, which has existed for over a year on the two pre-merger sites, came together on Friday night for an evening of activities and feasting at the junior school's, Discovery campus. 

The children, staff and parents there had worked hard to create a festive atmosphere, and Unlimited staff and students contributed too. Kitty enjoyed painting faces for her younger schoolfellows and Florian's telescopes were a hit. It was the wrong time of night to see Matariki (or the Pleiades) whose reappearance in the sky at the end of May signals the time for final gathering in of food stores before the true winter weather arrives later in June.  Jupiter, Mars and Saturn were all in our sights however.

The hangi-cooked food and pot luck meal was a Midwinter feast to rival roast turkey and its trimmings. Meat falling from the bone; vegetables melting in the mouth and everything infused with the distinctive earthy, smokiness of the hangi.

No need for me to feel regretful at being too busy to prepare a Midwinter dinner at home for the Solstice. Earlier, when summer and autumn fruit was so abundant, I'd intended to put away something of everything to make our Midwinter dinner with.

This has been a family custom for me, dating to my father's involvement with Antarctic research programmes and the observance of the shortest day, whether he was wintering over or celebrating at an Antarctic Society Dinner. One of my siblings is a direct result of one of those festive occasions! Later my parents continued the tradition at home, always raising a glass to the men enduring the endless polar night.

A Matariki feast then, to end a Midwinter week that began with dancing at Dawn.

Of course I celebrated the Winter Solstice - a few days early - with a spot of Morris dancing. Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen hosted the gathering at Paekakariki with their usual flair and attention to detail. 

They warm my heart whether they are masters of the kitchen or fancy footing.

But so too does everyone else!

It has occurred to me that if we got up even earlier on the morning that we dance to ensure the return of the Sun (and after all the sun gets up well after 7 o'clock at Midwinter) we might be able to see Matariki ... 


libby said...

How lovely to celebrate and to be with others, respecting mother earth and the seasons.
One day I will visit's on my list!

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Hi Libby, glad you appreciate our observance. It would be great to host you here when you do make it :-)