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CELEBRATING MATARIKI HAS become a tradition in our family. It started 10 years ago when we decided that a winter gathering would be fun – but calling it a mid-winter Christmas did not sit right with us. Matariki, with its unique New Zealand links, became our excuse for a party. It was such a success that this has become an annual event. Our celebration feast is simple with local, in-season food. Each family group is responsible for one course with New Zealand wine chosen for its Maori name or Matariki connection. I decorate the table and the room with stars (recycled from Christmas) and introduce Maori symbols and patterns in coasters, fabric and serviettes. A length of star- patterned fabric is our tablecloth and chipboard stars transformed with gold paint are the placemats. In the weeks before our celebration I scour the shops for star-themed gifts – books, journals, games, tumblers, pens, PJs, socks, whatever starry bargains I can find. Wrapped in star paper either recycled or decorated by the children, there’s something for everyone. The kids love glitter and even our music is star themed. Nothing is expensive. This year I wrapped everything in star- patterned tea towels instead of paper – more eco-friendly and useful. In the beginning we used the internet and then printed out facts describing Matariki which we took turns to read aloud. Now that it’s a more mainstream event, we each share something we know about the celebration. At the end of the meal we take a moment to remember loved ones, family who are unable to be with us or those who are no longer here, and we recall something or someone who has given us joy in the year gone by. Liliane Parkinson, Albany
I STARTED READING the March/April travel piece ‘ Still Lucky’ drawn by a desire to see India. I admired the wonderful photographs but then, in my impatient way, began to bristle at the writer’s inevitable haggling with poor Lucky, the rickshaw driver, on reaching the ashram. I was thinking of the indulgence and luxury of cheap travel which often the Third World affords us; haggling and bartering is an integral part of the experience. But to go ‘find ourselves’ spiritually, to reach a higher step in the journey of life, seems at odds with this. So, I was delighted by the end of the story to find that the writer, after 10 days of solitude and reflection, came away with a sharper view of life and reason to make amends with Lucky. Most pleased am I with this outcome – but not sanctimoniously so. Alongside the marvel of new sights, new food and meeting people, there’s often guilt and misgivings after many an exhausting purchase or transaction whilst traveling poorer countries than ours. I have questioned my own trade/transport interactions in hot, crowded markets and the absurdity of not wanting to be ‘ripped off’. Thank you for an excellent, descriptive piece. India still calls but I am uncertain whether I would have the fortitude for 10 days of meditative silence. Heather McVicar, Whangarei
I REALIZE YOUR WRITERS need to report the words of the interviewees yet surely it is also important to report fact, and to show some respect. One sentence in the July/August issue referred to Kurow as once “a nearderelict ghost town with a wool- cheque hangover where ‘wives voted the way their husbands told them.’” Can you please explain the meaning of wool- cheque hangover, and are rural women really lacking the ability to make decisions on their own? I suggest the interviewer and interviewee need to spend some time living among rural women and reading about them. They are strong, capable individuals. Please don’t insult them, or are you telling me Kurow women are different? My father never told me how to vote, nor taught me to keep my mouth shut. Barbara Hore, Alexandra
THE PRIZE We love hearing from you, so we publish your most interesting letters and send you a prize*. This time it’s two 25g tubes of ManukaRx** (worth $30 each) – a natural ointment effective for a range of skincare needs that is powered by distilled East Cape manuka oil. It soothes dry and chafed skin, repairs minor burns, scalds, rashes, cuts and grazes, and maintains supple skin on elbows, nails, lips and heels. The antibacterial properties of manuka oil also help prevent the spread of bacteria. *Prizes will only be posted to NZ addresses. ** Read the label. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. ManukaRx Limited, Auckland.