LOS ANGELES, CA, June 12, 2007 – Hundreds of events celebrating the Maori New Year, or Matariki, are being planned around the country, and the New Zealand Maori Tourism Council says it is a sure sign of New Zealand's increasing awareness of its unique culture and place in the world.

Matariki, which literally translates to "eyes of God," is a cluster of stars, also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. For the Maori, the stars' appearance in the skies above Aotearoa ("the land of the long white cloud") signifies the end of one year and the beginning of another. This year, the Maori New Year officially begins on June 16, 2007.

Traditionally, Matariki occurs at the end of harvest, signalling a time of celebration and renewal, in the form of preparing the land for planting, reconnecting with whanau (family) and friends, reflecting on the past, and setting goals for the future. The revival of Matariki has been gathering momentum for the past few years and 2007 will see regions all over the country participating in Matariki with their own unique activities.

"Matariki today is a time for all New Zealanders to celebrate who we are and what we have achieved together," says Johnny Edmonds, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Maori Tourism Council. "While it may be of Maori origins, Matariki is a time for Kiwis to celebrate their identity and look towards the future," Edmonds added.

For travelers in New Zealand during Matariki, it is a timely opportunity to learn about New Zealand's indigenous Maori culture. June is also an ideal time to sample traditional Maori food, with many restaurants around the country featuring Matariki menus.

"It gives people, especially visitors from America, a chance to engage with Maori and see what it is that makes Maori unique," says Bruce Lahood, Tourism New Zealand Vice President, North America.

Some of the highlights of Matariki 2007 include two weeks of celebrations at Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum in Wellington, including concerts, seminars, shows, workshops and a Matariki Gala.

Artists around the country are incorporating Matariki themes in their work; and even school children are getting involved in cultural activities, ranging from kite making to competing in Maori Hand Games.

For more information, visit: www.newzealand.com

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