Thursday, November 27, 2014



Kia Ora is the Maori people's phrase for hello, goodbye, thank you, you're welcome, good health, and cheers.  If we were not going to be in the USA for Thanksgiving, we thought celebrating with the New Zealand Maori tribal heritage was an excellent alternative. 

Learning about the first Island arrivals and sharing in their Hangi, a dinner involving a smoking pit of food, learning the Haka dance as well as wood carving, games and songs of the Maori people. I was fortunate to be chosen as the visiting tribal chief and participated in various tribal ceremonies the entire evening. Our most unique Thanksgiving experience.  Kia Ora!


For a cultural experience, we visited the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua for our Thanksgiving away from home.  

The Maori are the original natives of New Zealand or "Aotearoa" (long white cloud), arriving from Polynesia some time in 1300 by canoe.  The Maori culture is rich in folklore, ceremonial rituals,  and story telling that was shared with us for a delightful evening!

The Europeans started to arrive in the 17th century and brought changes to the Maori way of life.  The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 and the two cultures became part of the British colony.  The Treaty was not fair to the Maori tribes and a great deal of land and wealth was taken from them (much like our own Native Americans).  There is still conflict today over land and restoring Maori cultural traditions that continues to be worked out.  Today there are approximately 600,000 people identified as Maori or 15% of New Zealand's population.

The Chief begins the "Powhiri" or the ancient ceremony of welcome.

The welcoming ceremony includes a "wero" or challenge to establish intent of the visiting party - are we friendly or foe?

Chosen as the visiting chief, Richard is given a "Rautapu" (fern) which is a symbolic peace offering.  Everyone likes Richard - he has proved we are friendly visitors.

The 2 chiefs sharing in the sacred act of hongi (exchanging the ha or breath of life - the sharing of souls).   With this greeting, the rest of us are allowed into the village.  

The Village is in a native Tawa forest.

This Maori woman showed us the art of weaving

The art of "Ta moko" or tattooing was demonstrated.  
Moko is a practice of chiseling the skin with a mallet and then the ink is inserted into the punctures.  Ow!! very painful!!  The patterns communicate things such as family history and social standing.  Men have full facial tattoos and women usually on the chin.

I was pushed into helping demonstrate a "POI" which is the coordinated swinging of balls attached to cords, or in my case uncoordinated!

We enjoyed a "Kapa haka" 
 which involves singing, dancing and movements which look like fighting.

The Haka is a type of  Maori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace.  It is a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity.  

Yay!!  Time for the Hangi feasting!
A Hangi is a Maori traditional method of cooking in a pit.  Heated rocks with a large fire are placed in the bottom of the pit, then baskets of food are placed on top of the stones and covered for hours.  Pictured are the chefs uncovering the pit and taking our food out!


Baskets of New Zealand lamb, chicken, and potatoes are taken out of the Hangi.

Besides the food taken from the pit, the buffet was full of other New Zealand specialties such as the green lipped mussels, local fish, fresh vegetables, and kumara (sweet potato)

My first serving - I started with the succulent chicken, potatoes, and dressing.

There were many other desserts but my eye and stomach was on the Pavlova, New Zealand's national dessert.

Hope your Thanksgiving was as memorable as ours!!

Having passed 13 months of travel, we realize how thankful we are for our family,  friends and health.
Kia Ora!