Story: Māori feasts and ceremonial eating – hākari

Page 2. Traditional feasts

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A variety of traditional feasts to mark different events and rituals were categorised by ethnologist Raymond Firth.

Stages of life

  • At the koroingo or maioha ceremony to greet a newborn high-ranking child, gifts of food would be made to the parents.
  • The hākari (feast) for a child’s tūā (naming rite) might involve up to four hāngī ovens, the food from which was ceremonially distributed.
  • For the tohi ceremony, in which a child was dedicated to a god, the parents would put on a hākari for the community.
  • When a young person of rank received a tā moko (tattoo), a feast was given by their parents.
  • For a marriage, a number of hākari might be arranged, and the whānau of the husband and wife would attempt to maintain reciprocity.
  • At a tangihanga, a hākari would be put on for visiting relations. Also, at the return of the burial party to the marae, a special ceremonial hākari was held.
  • Traditionally, Māori would exhume the bones of their relations after a certain period and a ceremony would be held. A hākari was important at a hahunga (exhumation).

Maramataka (calendar)

  • Hākari were held at the conclusion of planting.
  • The kūmara harvest in March – ngahuru (autumn) – was a highly ritualised affair. First fruits were set aside for Rongo, god of cultivated foods, and a hākari was held.
  • When fishing or hunting, the first fruits of a season would be offered to a particular atua. The first fish would go to Tangaroa, god of the sea, and the first bird to Tāne, god of the forest.
  • The appearance of Matariki (the Pleiades) or Puanga (Rigel) signalled the New Year in traditional times. The harvest was in and food had been stored. A harvest festival would take place, with a large hākari.
  • The whare wānanga (house of learning) was opened with a hākari each year.


Hākari were held for:

  • summoning allies in war
  • hohou rongo (peace making), when the sealing of a peace agreement would include a hākari at which the former combatants ate together
  • important visitors
  • tribal rūnanga
  • paremata or kaihaukai (traditional feasts where tribes exchanged foods from their own regions)
  • return feasts.

Economic activity

When a community organised to build a large communal house and needed significant effort from related hapū, it would hold a feast at the start and at the conclusion of the work.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Māori feasts and ceremonial eating – hākari - Traditional feasts', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 May 2022)

Story by Basil Keane, published 5 Sep 2013