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).
- 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.
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.