Kōrero with Stacey: Seasonal proverbs

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7 November 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Stacey shares her favourite whakataukī for spreading the love at Christmas.

Getting in early, my whānau was watching the movie Deck the Halls last night and laughing that the mum character was just like me because she made the family wear matching Christmas sweaters. This is true, and poraka Kirihimete (Christmas sweaters) are two Māori words that aren’t often used together, and probably shouldn’t be.

They may tease me, but my whānau have mostly complied with some sort of festive get-up, although it was easier when the kids were kōhungahunga (infants) rather than taiohi (teenagers), as two of them are now. One year I got us kahutahi (onesies) to wear for Christmas, and I even travelled on a plane wearing mine, which was a step too far for everyone else in the whānau. After a tumultuous year, I figure we can all do with festivity, gratitude and building happy memories – even if the outfits are questionable.

One year I got us kahutahi (onesies) to wear for Christmas, and I even travelled on a plane wearing mine.

Although Kirihimete (Christmas) is obviously not a Māori concept per se, it’s well embraced in te reo Māori, and especially in churches with a Māori influence and presence. Some hymns have Māori translations such as Mārie te Pō (Silent Night) and my kids learned Tangi Pere (Jingle Bells) at their puna reo (preschool). You’ve probably heard or seen the term “Meri Kirihimete” as a transliteration for “Merry Christmas” and “ngā mihi o te wā” (“season’s greetings”) is a non-religious recognition of this time, but also workable for any significant time of year.

As much as Christmas cards are sometimes pushed out by social media posts and messages, I always think that words we say and write at this time are the priceless ways we can celebrate and appreciate each other. Te reo Māori, and especially whakataukī (proverbs), are brilliant offerings that endure across time because they ring true.

Here are some whakataukī that inspire me, and that I’d personally be very touched to receive in a Christmas message. See if any resonate for you: “He iti hau marangai e tū te pāhokahoka” – “Just like a rainbow after a storm, success follows tough times”, which could be a nice message of hope to someone who has had a rough time this year.

Similarly, “E haunui ana i rar, e hari ana i runga” – It’s blustery below but the sky above is clear, the difficult times are over and the way ahead is now easier”.

Or “Iti noa ana he pito mata” – “There is potential in the smallest bud, hold hope”.

If you prefer to be a little feistier and encourage someone not to give up, you could write, “Okea ururoatia!” – “Never say die – fight like a shark!”.

A very handy and lovely phrase when giving any gift is, “Ahakoa he iti, he iti nā te aroha” (“Although it is small, it is given with affection”).

The holiday spirit is strong in this kōrero: “He iti tangata e tupu – he iti toki e iti tonu” (“People grow, adzes remain small – people are more valuable than material possessions”).

Although I’ve been at my house a lot more than usual, or planned to, this year, I still very much relate to this saying too: “Kia mau te tokanga nui a noho” (“There’s no place like home”).

At the time of writing, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to go “home” to our parents and whānau in Rotorua and Christchurch this year, but the spirit of whānau can and will be with us wherever we are. No matter where you are this Christmas, I wish you health and hope for the year ahead. Meri Kirihimete, kia haumaru te noho, e hoa mā – stay safe my friends.

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