Matariki is a constellation of stars which appears in the night sky in the middle of winter, bringing the lunar year to a close and marking the Māori New Year - but it has a much bigger meaning for people.

Matariki 2018 will begin this Friday and continue until late July.

Student at Toi Ohomai Rodahl White-Parsons created an event for her fellow students to discover the meaning and importance of this "special time in our modern world".

"For us as individuals, Matariki means a lot of different things.

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"Some people see it as a time for reconnecting with who you are as Māori or a chance to get together and to celebrate."

For White-Parsons it is a reminder to spend time with family and they all come together to celebrate.

"It's a lot like people do for Christmas or for the new year."

She said for her the day didn't need to be Māori specific and she'd like to see more awareness about it.

There has been conversation about making Matariki a national holiday, but with each tribe celebrating it at different times, it would be too hard to set a date, White-Parsons said.

Rotorua Lakes Council arts and culture communications and marketing co-ordinator Kathy Nicholls said there was a really cool range of events happening this year.

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"There are educational, events for families, arts, crafts, a really good mix of events."

Nicholls said for her Matariki was all about bringing people together, reflection on the past and looking forward to the future.

"The events are about giving people a chance to spend time together."

Tohunga (priests) would traditionally use the stars to forecast the year ahead.
Clear and bright stars signalled warm and productive seasons, and hazy or shimmering clusters meant a cold winter was coming and ground for crops was prepared accordingly.

Today Matariki is generally seen as an important time to celebrate the earth and show respect for the land.

It is also a time to acknowledge those who have passed away and plan for the year ahead.