Pohutukawa - Aotearoa’s rākau Kirihimete
Filled with aroha, the pohutakawa tree is well known as Aotearoa’s rākau Kirihimete (Christmas tree). Used as Christmas table decorations, and lining our beaches for a shady spot to rest, pohutukawa is a summer time symbol for us kiwis.
However, the pohutukawa symbolises a lot more than Kirihimete and summer time, it ties into both our sense of spirituality and our kōrero.
Connecting with our history
As well as being an iconic part of the kiwi summer, the pohutukawa also holds a prominent place in Māori mythology.
Legends tell the story of Tawhaki - a young warrior who attempted to find heaven in the hopes of seeking help to avenge the death of his father. During his journey, he fell back down to earth. It is said that the crimson red of the pohutukawa flowers represent his blood.
Pohutukawa is also a significant symbol of our spirituality - connecting the beginning and end of life.
A pohutukawa tree upon a clifftop in Cape Reinga, the northern tip of Aotearoa, is known as the place of leaping, where spirits begin their journey to our traditional homeland, Hawaiki. The 800-year old tree is known as the guard of the entrance to a sacred cave, where spirits pass on their way to the underworld.
While the bright, crimson red of pohutukawa means summer time to many of us – it has a special meaning to Māori all year round. This Christmas, why not share the meaning of pohutukawa with your whānau?
From all of us here at the Ngāti Rārua Ātiawa Iwi Trust, Meri Kirihimete!
Check out this list of Reo Christmas words to use in everyday conversation this December.
kāri Kirihimete Christmas card
Meri Kirihimete Merry Christmas
hākari Kirihimete Christmas feast
pepa ruruku wrapping paper
rākau Kirihimete Christmas tree
koha gift, present
tōkena Kirihimete Christmas stocking
Hana Kōkō Santa Claus
mārama Kirihimete Christmas lights
hīmene Kirihimete Christmas carol