This year is the first that I decided to not give gifts on December 25th and to not acknowledge that day as a day of any significance. For many years I have removed the representations and meanings of both christmas and the Pākehā new year and have returned to an acknowledging of Hineraumati during the summer months. This meant gifting in the summer was framed as an affirmation of the wellbeing that comes with all that is experienced within the time of Hineraumati. This we see often now with many people sending out greetings and acknowledgements such as ‘ngā mihi o te wā o Hineraumati’.
Over the past few years I have been increasing reflecting upon this time of the year. Even the ways in which we consider time periods such as the ‘year’ brings to the fore the notion that time is a colonial and colonising construct. This is something that has been raised by many of our people who are working to reclaim our practices of the maramataka and the powerful ceremonies that have been held at the time of Matariki and Pūanga and the energy that is a part of the revitalisation of the Maramataka (the Māori seasonal lunar calendar).
The national celebration of Matariki this year is one indication that our collective resistance to colonisation in all of its forms continues and the ongoing sharing of knowledge and tikanga related to maramataka by the likes of Rangi Matamua (https://e-tangata.co.nz/korero/rangi-matamua-matariki-and-maori-astronomy/; https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/matariki-2022-qa-with-matariki-expert-dr-rangi-matamua/DG6QJ25YXTFF4L25FJZJDV4ISY/ ; https://www.maorinow.com/tv/living-by-the-stars/3 ) , Heeni Hoterene (https://www.maramataka.co.nz/ https://www.facebook.com/maramataka/ ), Rereata Makiha (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4MTE7E3R_Q ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z88xFjHYsdY ) and others (https://www.ecevoice.org/matariki-pld-series ) , has seen many of our people and communities are now reflecting on how we live our lives in line with the messages gifted to us from our tūpuna in regards to our relationships with the taiao, atua, maunga, awa, moana, manu, ngangara, kararehe – with all that we share this world with.
For many years I have been working to remove myself from the excesses and colonising capitalist obsession that is ‘christmas’. It is a time that is so embedded in our experience that many take the term ‘Merry Christmas’ for granted. It slips off our tongues with ease and often with little reflection or thought to both its origins and its ongoing embodiment of all that is oppressive to Māori and Indigenous Peoples.
Spending time with whānau and celebrating each other at any time or place is a part of who we are. The summer break is a time that many of us take as a holiday period and can spend time with whānau and friends. It is the time of Hineraumati, who as one of the atua, alongside Te Rā and Tānerore, of the summer period and here in Aotearoa it is an ideal time to be warm and to enjoy what that means for us. Having time together with whānau and friends is a way to uplift and to revitalise our mauri, our inner being, our wairua, our spiritual essence and our whanaungatanga, our relationships. That is something that is a part of what we aspire to as we seek to reclaim, revitalise and regenerate our tikanga as we live in a context of dealing with daily colonisation in Aotearoa. However, christmas itself is not about that, no matter how much we want to frame it as such.
Christmas is about the birth and uplifting of the religious ceremony of the birth of Jesus Christ and the bringing together of christian celebration with that. There are many sources and differing views of the origins of Christmas however the fundamental underpinning remains, Christmas day is the christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Within christian understandings it is debatable that this was the actual day of birth however it has become the dominant christian day of observance. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christmas; https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/25th ) It is an imported colonial construction that has over the many many years merged with capitalism to become a time of excess on many levels. It is also a celebration of the origin of religious dominance and oppression of Indigenous Peoples globally. Religious documents such the Papal Bulls of 1452 and the Doctrine of Discovery of 1493, positioned Indigenous People as both non-Christian and less than human. Steven Newcomb (2009) wrote “in the bull of 1452, Pope Nicholas directed King Alfonso to “capture, vanquish, and subdue the Saracens, Pagans, and other enemies of Christ,” to “put them into perpetual slavery,” and “to take all their possessions and property.” (p,18).
The troubling nature of the general acceptance of christmas and all it represents is something that needs deeper analysis and thought than a mere blog on the day before the event however it has been something that for many years has been a point of contention in my life and therefore in the ways in which engaging in the many activities and behaviours associated with this time. Perhaps as we are actively increasing our knowledge, understandings and practices of the maramataka then now could be a good time to also reflect upon how we reduce the dominance of colonial christian ideologies and practices. There are many tikanga that are a part of the maramataka that will come to the fore as we strengthen our mātauranga and remember the teachings of our tūpuna. Just two days ago was the time known by some as ‘Te takanga o Te Rā or ‘Te Maruaroa O Raumati’ Hineraumati, Rangi Matamua states “is said to inhabit the earth and is personified in the warm soil that supports the productivity of the gardens in summer. Subsequently, ‘raumati’ means ‘summer’. (p,41). Te Maruaroa o Raumati occurred just two days ago and is a significant time as we see the movement of Te Rā back to Takurua, the winter, referred to as Hinetakurua. It marks a time where our tūpuna had been active in their preparation for the winter months. It is a day that we can celebrate, we can gather together, we can work together, we can hakari together, we can be together and give acknowledgement to our tūpuna and to all that is Aotearoa. It is a time when we begin our move back to Takurua and that means we are now beginning our move back towards the time of Matariki and Puanga. There is much to acknowledge, and to prepare for. ((https://www.maorinow.com/play/#/tv/2037/season/3/episode/9?from=https:%2F%2Fwww.maorinow.com%2Ftv%2Fliving-by-the-stars%2F3&t=0 ).
Decolonisation is not an easy process. As Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1997) has noted there is an ongoing challenge to both demystify and to decolonise across all contexts of our experiences and lives as Indigenous Peoples. It is also a struggle. It is also a commitment to transforming our realities and the ways in which we live on our lands within an ongoing colonising context that impacts upon our people daily. Decolonising the ways in which time and the markers of time have been imposed upon us through colonisation can not be left only for the time of Matariki, it must be done in the recognition of all of the significant periods and phases of our world. It also means reflecting upon the ways in which colonial signifiers such as christmas and easter continue to dominate our landscape in ways that are not ours and bring with them a distorted understanding of the place and role of christianity in the oppression of Indigenous Peoples. Reclaiming Hineraumati is a part of that.