Hawaiians unite together each 11 June to celebrate King Kamehameha Day and participate in cultural festivities and events. The holiday honours the great monarch, King Kamehameha I, who is remembered for unifying the Hawaiian Islands of O’ahu, Maui, Lana’i, Moloka’i, Kaho’olawe, and Hawai’i in 1795, and later Ni’ihau and Kaua’i in 1810, to form the Kingdom of Hawai’i.
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Kamehameha was an intelligent ruler who fought to preserve the Hawaiian culture from European influence while still conducting business with men of the Western world, specifically in the field of weaponry.
The first King Kamehameha Day was celebrated on June 11, 1872 after having been instituted by the late monarch’s grandson, Lot Kapuaiwa, or Kamehameha V, as he was also known. Hawaiians honoured their former king by attending fairs, carnivals, horse races, and various other celebrations.
Today, King Kamehameha I continues to be revered throughout Hawaiian culture and his holiday is a festive day that includes traditional island events and entertainment. The Kamehameha Day Celebration has marked the occasion in Hilo, Hawai’i for over 100 years. Known today as the Kamehameha Festival, the event is comprised of Hawaiian music, dance, arts, and crafts that island natives and visitors alike can enjoy.
So revered is Kamehameha in Hawaii, that there are six statutes erected in his honor throughout the state. And one of the main events around this time each year is the draping of these statutes with floral strings called “lei.” They are covered in huge numbers of lei until the statues look extremely colorful and impressive.
The Lei Draping event in Honolulu is the most famous, but there are other such ceremonies on Oahu, on the “big island” of Hawaii, and elsewhere. And there are also colorful floral parades, hula dances, and other festive annual events at various locations throughout Hawaii.