Matariki or Winter Solstice? Either way, it’s a great time to celebrate!

Nelson days are definitely turning frostier! Winter is well and truly upon us, bringing with it a rich tradition of midwinter celebrations. Thanks to our new public holiday, there is a lot of excitement about Matariki this year but midwinter has always been a special time to celebrate with family and friends.

All around the world, the winter solstice is a time of joy and renewal. Celebrations are centred on the moment when the sun travels its shortest path through the sky. Bonfires, fireworks, candles, evergreen wreaths, dancing and gifts all feature in the festivities — along with plenty of feasting, singing and drinking.

If that sounds suspiciously like Christmas to you, then you’d be right. In New Zealand we have inherited many Christmas traditions that actually belong in midwinter, with much earlier origins than the birth of Christ. We can thank the Druids for mistletoe and the Celts for the idea of dragging a live tree inside the house. 

Midwinter is the perfect opportunity to enjoy those festive treats that make no sense whatsoever on a hot Christmas day — such as mulled wine. If you are planning to make your own delicious version, we recommend our Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet. Part of our regional selection, this wine is a lovely soft blend — just perfect for adding your own midwinter flair.

For those who prefer their wine without added spice, our Mt Arthur Pinot Noir is always a big hit at this time of the year. It’s the ideal bottle to crack open around the fireplace, paired with great company and good conversation.

Winter solstice in New Zealand is actually a bit like mulled wine itself; it has its own spices and flavours, thanks to our unique blend of cultural heritages. This year more people are embracing Matariki and looking forward to a brand new public holiday in 2022. Matariki falls between 19 June and 11 July, when the Matariki stars can be seen in our skies.

Why not surprise your special someone with a special glass of bubbly under the sparkling stars? It’s a great way to mark the beginning of a new year.

Not surprisingly, stars feature in solstice festivals all around the world. The Matariki stars are called the ‘Pleiades’ by the Greeks, ‘The Evening Hen’ in Denmark, and ‘Subaru’ in Japan.

Our close connection with our grape growers means that midwinter is a special time for us. Really, it’s the beginning of a whole new vintage, just waiting to happen. As a farming community, growers of all sorts are dear to our hearts in Nelson. Right now gardeners across the region are scrambling to find nice fat garlic bulbs to plant on the shortest day. 

A delightful way to mark the solstice with children is to build a bird feeder or scatter some seeds. Many cultures make little gifts to honour nature at this time of the year. Nelson has other activities for children and families too, including the Matariki Festival, kite making and a chance to weave Matariki stars from harakeke (flax). 

Most of all, midwinter gives us a chance to slow down a little. It’s an opportunity to enjoy good company, with great wine and slow-cooked food. We always say that you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy a quality glass of wine. However, now is the perfect time to indulge a little. And if you choose to buy locally, you’ll be honouring the growers in our wonderful region.

There are so many fantastic Nelson wines to choose from. Whether you prefer a glass of bubbly, an elegant white, or a spicy Pinot Noir, you’re sure to find something you love. Perhaps you’ll try something fresh and new, like our newly released Sauvignon Blanc.

Spending time with friends and family is so important — and even more so in the depths of winter. Everyone needs laughter, love and friendship. And a little celebration goes a long way. No matter what you have planned, we hope the season brings you joy, and a touch of winter sparkle.

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