Nga Tau - The significance of our seasons
Each season plays an important role in how we plan for the year ahead. Our tūpuna relied upon the maramataka (Māori seasonal calendar), which they used as a guide for times to fish, go eeling, hunt, and plant crops.
Typically, our tūpuna would view the year in two seasons, the warmer months of Raumati (summer) and the colder months of Takurua/Hōtoke (winter). However, they still referred to them as four seasons – particularly when it came to harvest and other key events.
When the kowhai bloomed, it meant spring had arrived. Spring is the time of year to prepare the whenua (land) and crops for harvest. Known as ‘the digging season’, these were the months to dig, prepare the soil and plant crops. Our tūpuna would prepare the whenua during spring and plant kūmara, ready for harvest in the following months.
Although the warmer months often brought an abundance of kaimoana, including crayfish, kahawai and whitebait, summer was not often looked forward to. The height of summer often meant food was scarce, which lead to exhaustion. Many of our tūpuna eagerly awaited the return of the colder months, which brought harvest and food was plentiful.
Autumn was probably the most anticipated time of year for our tūpuna. With autumn being the time of harvest, there was an abundance of kai. The whenua of Motueka is rich in nutrients from the Motueka River – making it ideal for growing food crops.
“Ngahuru, kura kai, kura tangata”
Harvest-time, wealth of food, the wealth of people
We still celebrate this time of year, through events such as KaiFest.
Following harvest, we enter the cold months of winter, which our tūpuna looked forward to as an indication of what will come in the new year. Takurua also signals Matariki, the Māori new year.
Matariki is a time to look forward to the new year, and traditionally tohunga (an expert) would look to Matariki as a prediction for the next harvest.
If the stars were bright it showed a warm, favourable season for planting, which ensures a good harvest. If the stars were unclear or close together, then it was a negative tohu (sign). The time for planting would depend on whether the stars were unclear and close together, or bright and clear, with the good tohu of bright stars meaning that planting would happen earlier.
Although not strictly followed today, we still look to the maramataka to plan out our events each year, and know what each season will bring.