Reflecting on Matariki

14 Jul Reflecting on Matariki

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 18.7.22


According to family legend, my Dad’s mother would put the vegetables on to boil before the family left for church at nine on Sunday morning and consider them just about ready by the time they got home at midday. Learning that cooked cabbage could be green rather than bleached white was a discovery Dad made after he married my mother.

For some people back then, the shocking part of this story was not the over-cooking of the veg – this thing of bringing our water to the boil before dropping greens in and serving them with crunch and colour was unheard of in many kitchens. “These beans could have done with another hour, Shirley,” said many a mother-in-law as the 1970s gave way to nouvelle cuisine.

The shock for traditionalists was that cooking was being done on a Sunday at all. In many households, a casserole or roasting dish was prepared on the Saturday, leaving the Sabbath as a strictly observed Day of Rest. No cooking, no cleaning, no handyman jobs around the house or garden. A whole day devoted to devotion – church, bible reading, prayer, sometimes observed in silence without so much as music on in the background.

This was not how we did Sundays at our place, and descriptions of it sounded to me not like a day of “rest” but of enforced nothingness, a kind of rigid emptiness. We did church or Sunday School, sure, but then the day was ours to do pretty much as we liked – ride bikes, visit friends, read – followed by a family evening in front of the telly with a Disney movie while mum did the ironing.

Later, when I moved to the city and went flatting, I found Sundays a bit shapeless and sad. No family activities to bookend a day that already lacked Friday’s anticipation and Saturday’s thrill. Sunday was the day you spent very much aware that Monday was coming. You were on a downward slope to the valley of work.

Bit dramatic, given I’ve pretty much always had jobs I liked, but you’ll know what I mean – even great jobs can feel like a grind. But my point is, I forgot what you could do with Sundays, and the purpose of a Day of Rest – to recharge, refuel, reset and a lot of other things that begin with “re” including my new favourite one, reflection.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I finally have time, but crikey, I really like being alone somewhere quiet and having a think these days. I sat somewhere quiet and thought about this during our new holiday to honour Matariki.

Like many people I talked to, I consciously spent those three days reflecting on the people and things I have lost, appreciating the people in my life and the things I have now, and envisioning the life I look forward to in the next year.

And what a perfect time to do this, in the middle of winter – when life feels slower, food tastes better and hugs are so warm. Bed, book, beach walk, talking with the people I love, roast lamb at the end of it.

I am thrilled we have been invited to embrace something as old as Matariki. It already feels like something we have always done – and was for many – and like something we will always do. I liked it so much, I’m going to practice a little of it every Sunday.