Pohutukawa tree

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.


The return
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

Kirihimete                        Christmas

hākari Kirihimete             Christmas feast

pepa ruruku                     wrapping paper

rākau Kirihimete              Christmas tree

whakapaipaitanga           decorations

anahera                           angel

koha                                gift, present

tōkena Kirihimete            Christmas stocking

Hana Kōkō                      Santa Claus

mārama Kirihimete          Christmas lights

hīmene Kirihimete           Christmas carol