For most of us around the globe, June 11th is just another typical Tuesday. But to Hawaiian’s, this day is a state holiday - a joyous day full of festivals, culture, traditions, and honoring Kamehameha the Great (aka Kamehameha the First, Kamehameha I, and King Kamehameha).
Celebrations for Honor
Throughout the day, patrons participate in several activities throughout the Islands of Hawai’i, oftentimes with multiple chances to catch a ho’olaul eʻa. A Hoʻolauleʻa is a Hawaiian celebration or festival, which may consist of authentic hula dancing and music, foods, vendors and games.
In downtown Honolulu, hundreds of feet of plumeria flower lei will be strung like ropes, each at least 30 feet long, across the 15-foot statue (plus 15 feet for the pedestal) of the King. (In fact, this is probably the most photographed event in Hawai’i!)
The King’s Celebration & Parade on Kauai, held in Lihue, travels from Vidinha Stadium, along Rice Street, to the County Building for its hoʻolaulea.
On Maui, the Na Kamehameha Commemorative Pau Parade brings local marching bands and colorful floats, travelling along Lahaina’s historic Front Street ending at Banyan Tree Park with another hoʻolauleʻa!
“Downtown Oahu and Waikīkī, where the Annual King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade will take place, is a true feast for the eyes. The magnificent parade is a dazzling display of old Hawaiʻi pageantry with all its breathtaking colors, flowers and people.”
While Oʻahu perhaps has the largest number of people involved in these festivities, the other Hawaiian islands also pay homage to the great king.
Hilo, on Hawaiʻi Island, conducts its own lei draping ceremony at the Bayfront Drive King Kamehameha statue, as well as hosting the Kamehameha Festival at Mokuola (or Coconut Island).
There is also an annual lei draping in Kohala, the birthplace of King Kamehameha, followed by a parade and the traditional party.
The Kailua-Kona celebration features a parade down Aliʻi Drive, followed by a ho‘olaule‘a hosted at the Hulihe‘e Palace. This event also includes a free concert featuring top Hawaiian recording artists. (!!!!!)
Since this is a state holiday, many state offices and schools are closed, public transit services may run to a reduced schedule, and some businesses may choose to close their doors too, as all gather around the islands to honor the King.
Who is Kamehameha the Great?
Known to many as the “Napoleon of the Pacific”, Kamehameha the Great was the first ruler of (all of) Hawai’i from 1782 until 1819.
“According to ancient Hawaiian lore, the king’s history was foretold when his birth, in 1753, was announced by the appearance of a comet as it streaked across the Hawaiian sky.” (Hawaii.com)
In the beginning, he lived in Kailua with his parents until his father's death then lived with and continued to receive special training from King Kalani'opu'u, his uncle, at age 5. This training included skills in games, warfare, oral history, navigation, religious ceremonies, and other information necessary to become an ali'i-'ai-moku (a district chief). After the elderly ali'i Kalani'opu'u, crippled by disease, divided his Hawaiian domain, the current chief pronounced his son Kiwala'o as his political heir. Although Kamehameha was a lower rank than Kiwala’o, the former chief felt as though Kamehameha was deserving of such honor as to entrust him with the chiefdom and protection of Ku – the war god.
Decidedly, the old chief's legacy had effectively "split the political decision-making power between individuals of unequal rank" and set the stage for civil war among the chiefs of the island of Hawai'i.
Throughout many years, battles over the individual islands ensued, with Kamehameha earning his reputation of being a fierce warrior and steadfast in his resolve to disrupt the constant invasions. Whether they were from other countries, “loyal” followers who turned on him, or his own family, Kamehameha the Great stood strong and, eventually, proved to the people of Hawai’i, his late uncle, and the war god Kuka'ilimoku (or Ku, who was also referred to as “the snatcher of islands” once it was found that Kamehameha I prayed to him before every battle).
Eventually, in 1810, Kamehameha was able to do what no other human has been able to do for Hawai’i: unite the Hawaiian Islands into a viable and recognized political kingdom.
To this day, King Kamehameha is revered for introducing laws to uphold human rights in combat situations. Not only was he successful in his endeavor, he is known to be a leader of fairness and stability, a fearless warrior, and a wise diplomat after years of near endless strife and conflict.
If you’re on the islands, tag us in your insta photos @hawaiian_healing or #hawaiianhealingtribe! We’d LOVE to see the beauty and honor through your eyes.
To learn more detailed information about the life of King Kamehameha, click here: https://www.nps.gov/puhe/learn/historyculture/kamehameha.htm