The Hongi - A Maori greeting

The Hongi - A Maori greeting

The 'Hongi' is a traditional Maori greeting in New Zealand used by the Maori people. To hongi you press your nose and forehead together with the nose and forehead of the person you are greeting. Many people of Maori decent prefer to hongi, instead of shaking hands.

Although at important ceremonies a hongi will also be given with a handshake as a way to make people of all cultures attending feel welcome. It is not unusual to see people, young and old, male and female, hongi when they meet in every day situations. The greeting is not reserved for traditional or cultural meetings, it is a natural part of everyday life. Especially for those connected to their Maori heritage.

The origins of the hongi can be traced back in Maori folklore to the creation of mankind. The first woman created by the gods was Hineahuone, "earth formed woman" so called as she was shaped out of the earth. The god Tane embraced Hineahuone and breathed life into her nostrils.

When Māori greet one another by pressing noses, the tradition of sharing the breath of life is considered to have come directly from the gods. Through the exchange of this physical greeting, one is no longer considered manuhiri ("a visitor") but rather tangata whenua, "one of the people of the land".

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