From Matariki to mulled wine, all the events and festivals running up and down Aotearoa through winter so you can party away the chilly season.
Cloves, star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves, mandarins and a couple of the cheapest bottles of merlot on the bottom shelf of the supermarket. Pretty much all you'll need for a hit of mulled wine that's guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart.
Which is a stupid turn of phrase. The heart doesn't have cockles. It's a muscle, after all.
But we have to find a way to while away the time until next winter when we get our first Matariki public holiday, and mulled wine seems almost a good a way as any. Well, almost – there's so much going on around the country in the next few months there's no need to wait a whole year to celebrate.
Nationwide, inspired by the Māori tradition of giving thanks for the harvest before replanting, Eat New Zealand has created Feast Matariki, Aotearoa's first modern-day national food celebration (18 June-8 July). It's an opportunity to recognise the amazing kai we grow, catch and make here, and acknowledge Kiwi manaakitanga (hospitality).
Whāngārei is celebrating this special time of year with cultural events from performances, kai hākari and educational sessions to arts and crafts, events and exhibitions.
In Tāmaki Makaarau, you can herald in the new year alongside iwi manaaki at the Matariki Dawn Karakia at Takaparawhau Bastion Point, fly kites for Manu Aute Kite Day in Ōrākei and Puketāpapa, then at night enjoy Auckland Harbour Bridge's stunning light display. Watch short and feature-length films to better understand the stars, catch kapa haka performances, or dance the night away at Te Korakora, Takutai Square.
The Matariki ki Waikato festival begins with a dawn ceremony to commemorate the birth of King Koroki, then continues with events spanning the arts, music, hauora, taiao and education. The events are aimed to encourage recognition and grow awareness of Matariki, so now's a great time to get out there and learn.
In Rotorua, feed your mind with exhibitions and talks on each of the seven whetū (stars); nurture your soul with stories, dancing and singing with your little ones at the city library; be inspired by local growers and traditional kai at the Farmers' Market; or energise your body on a night bike ride under the redwoods.
In the capital, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Mana Moana Digital Ocean is an immersive digital art experience that brings together more than 20 leading Māori and Pacifica artists. Ahi Kā – Live will feature performers, over two stages, singing and dancing around the flames and the Ahi Kā - Projection show, an incredible large-scale projection on to Te Papa Tongarewa.
Ōtautahi hosts its first Matariki fireworks display in July, set to a Kiwi music soundtrack, marking the climax of the Tīrama Mai lighting event. Register for the lantern-lit family Matariki Night Walk beside Pūharakekenui Styx River, then thrill to fireside stories and hot chocolates, or bling out your bike, helmet and self to cycle Hagley Park for the 10th annual Matariki Night Light Bike Ride.
Puaka Matariki Festival in Ōtepoti offers a citywide programme of community and digital events, including shared feasts, Toi Māori visual arts, literary works, music and dance performance. Celebrate this season of wānaka (learning) and whanaukataka (community spirit) in person or on the digital marae.
Those are some of the events in our major cities. For details of events in your area, check your local council website.
But winter is not all about Matariki. Mardi Gras is renowned as New Zealand's biggest winter party, and this year the festivities are shared across two towns and weekends - Ohakune (June 19) and Queenstown (26 June). Promoters promise six international acts and an impressive line-up of local talent, so dress up and get ready to dance until dawn.
Still in Ohakune, the annual Carrot Carnival (June 5) is a fun day out for the whole whanau, featuring the acclaimed carrot cake competition.
As has been traditional since … well, since they got an international airport, Queenstown's winter festival promises an action-packed three days (July 2-4) celebrating all there is to love about the snowy season. Choose from a range of free and ticketed events for live music, comedy shows, markets, on-mountain events, fireworks and more, and be careful not to trip over the influencers and celebs on Beach St.
A few weeks later, the Winter Pride Festival (August 27- September 5) has been dubbed the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, combining winter sports with community and inclusion. more than 40 events celebrate the LGBTQI+ community, including dance parties, music, comedy, speed dating, skiing and boarding.
They call it the Winterless North, but the Tutukaka Coast welcomes visitors to come bask in the glow of the luminous Northern Lights Festival (July 1-11). Check out large light-art displays by local creatives, UV silent discos, movie nights, glow-in-the-dark paddle-boarding, and fire twirling.
In Matamata, Lord of the Rings tragics … sorry, fans can enjoy a cosy evening at the Shire for the Hobbiton Mid-Winter Feast. Tour the movie set, then warm up fireside with mulled wine before feasting on a buffet dinner fit for a Hobbit.
There'll be two weeks of fun during the sixth Taupō Winter Festival (July 9-25) - a lakeside ice rink, giant inflatable snow globe, mountain-themed film festival, music, theatre, circus acts plus plenty of free hot chocolates to keep you energised.
In nearby Rotorua, the Winter Forest Festival (August 8) offers outdoor adventure for everyone, with seven events including trail running/walking and mountain biking. Expect kids' activities, an expo, food and live music.
Hawke's Bay is Food And Wine Country, where it's best to spell out the name of the gourmet event rather than say it out loud. Pack some stretchy pants and get ready to enjoy the finest fare and beverages from the region's talented cuisine community. Over four weekends in June you'll be treated to all manner of hearty fare and warming red wines in beautiful locations.
For something more cerebral, the Taranaki Arts Festival, Trust's Right Royal Cabaret Fest and Puke Ariki's Festival of Words will feature live shows and events over a four-day programme (July 29-August 1). Expect to see leading cabaret artists, authors, acclaimed guest speakers and stage performers.
The Lōemis Festival (pronounced lew-miss) celebrates the winter solstice (June 11-21) with harvest food, craft workshops and new theatre works. It aims to deliver a programme focusing on the ritual, mystical and fantastical elements of the solstice, marking the year's shortest day and longest night.
Wellington On a Plate is back for its 13th year with, throughout August, more than 100 events, dining menus, burgers and craft cocktails. This year's three-tiered format — Dine Wellington, Burger Wellington and Cocktail Wellington — will celebrate the region's depth of culinary talent. Sibling events Road to Beervana (August 6-15) and Beervana (August 13-14) are also on tap.
Cromwell's town centre comes alive during Light Up Winter (July 10), with thousands of fairy lights and light installations, live music, roaming street performers, and vibrant night market. And over in Cardrona, there's the brand new Snowboxx festival (https://www.snowboxx.nz/) from September 7-14, a week-long party of snow and apres-snow, featuring Shapeshifter, Melowdonzand more.
In Dunedin, where they've probably got a better idea than most of us what winter is all about, the Midwinter Carnival (June 26) features a parade with 1000 participants and hundreds of locally crafted lanterns. This year's is A Moonlit Garden, and includes performers, food trucks, market stalls and projections.