Aloha mai! Greetings to all! Hawaii has been in the news a bit more than usual lately, with Pele showing us her feisty side. The island chain needs a little positivity and next Monday, June 11, will be a big up-lifter. It’s the 146th celebration of Kamehameha Day!
The History of Kamehameha and his Day
In 1795 then Chieftan Kamehameha united Hawai’i, O’ahu, Maui, Moloka’i, and Lana’i under one united Kingdom of Hawai’i. Fifteen years later, in 1810 Kamehameha the Great, now King, united the full Hawaiian archipelago, when Kaua’i and Ni’ihau joined peacefully, without war or bloodshed. In December 1871 his great-grandson, Kamehameha V, declared June 11 Kamehameha day to honor grandpa.
By the end of the 19th century, Kamehameha Day was a big thing. There were fairs, carnivals, and races going one.
After the overthrow of the Kingdom in 1893, although Kamehameha Day remained a holiday, it lost its celebratory aspect. Luckily, after Hawai’i became a US territory, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole restored the Royal Order of Kamehameha I and they then restored Kamehameha Day celebrations in 1904. Today, Hawai’i continues to celebrate with parades, hula competitions, arts & crafts and more.
Modern Kamehameha Celebrations
Every island has parades and festivals to celebrate, but some of the biggest events happen on Oahu and Hawai’i.
The largest Kamehameha parade takes place on the island of Oahu. Think Rose Parade but with native Hawaiian plants and flowers. It starts at ‘Iolani Palace, makes its way through Waikiki, and ends at Kapi’olani Park. Everyone’s favorite part of the parade is the pa’u riders, the royal court, led by a queen on horseback and followed by princesses with their ladies in waiting (the pa’u). Be sure to check out the Kamehameha float too, with its traditional Hawaiian warriors.
Hula groups from all over the world travel to the Neil S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu for the two day King Kamehameha Hula Competition. It’s definitely a sight to see!
The most important part of the day’s celebration is the draping ceremony, dating back to 1901. In the afternoon, crowds gather around the Ali’iolani Hale and ‘Iolani Palace, where the Kamehameha Status is located, to watch it get draped in long strands of lei.
Hawai’i (The Big Island)
On the very northern tip of the island of the Big Island is the small town of Kapa’au, birthplace of King Kamehameha I. As you can image, Kamehameha Day is a quite a special event for the community and several thousand people, locals and visitors, participate in a full day of celebrations. The original statue of King Kamehameha I resides in Kapa’ua and the festivities all kick off here at 8am with a lei draping ceremony. Many beautiful 25-foot-long lei, created just for this occasion decorate the statue as a tribute to the king. After the draping is a traditional floral parade, and the rest of the day is filled with music, arts and crafts, and food. It’s really a special place to be on this day.
The Royal Oder of Kamehameha I has continued to be involved in Kamehameha Day celebrations in Hilo since 1908. The event is now held on Moku Ola island (Coconut Island). There is the usual dance, music, crafts, and food. In addition to the usual activities, Hilo also hosts an award ceremony and an open market with Hawai’i-made goods (and food, always food).