Hawaiians unite together each 11 June to celebrate King Kamehameha Day and participate in cultural festivities and events. In 2018, King Kamehameha Day falls on a Monday.
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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.
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. King Kamehameha Day is the only royal holiday under the Kingdom of Hawai’i to endure after Hawai’i became a state in 1959.
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.
Each year on the weekend nearest to the holiday, the King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade can be found on the island of O’ahu. Bearing the distinct honour of being the longest parade in all of Hawai’i, this colourful procession has been delighting crowds for nearly one hundred years. Live entertainment, traditional Hawaiian food, and various other vendors can be found at parade’s end for continued celebration.
A must-see part of the multi-day celebration is the lei draping ceremony at the two distinguished statues of King Kamehameha I. The original statue is located in the king’s birthplace of North Kohala on the northern tip of the Big Island of Hawai’i. The ceremony begins with a blessing as a 25-foot long lei is draped over the statue in honor of the great king. This is accompanied by traditional Hawaiian hula and music along with a historical tribute to King Kamehameha’s reign. The ceremony is followed by a floral parade that ends at Kamehameha Park for a Ho’olaule’a complete with hula, music, food, arts and crafts.
The lei draping in downtown Honolulu at Ali’iolani Hale is a larger event, known to be one of the most photographed celebrations in the state. Members of the royal societies prepare by sewing hundreds of feet of plumeria flowers into long ropes which are then draped over King Kamehameha’s statue during the ceremony.
On the island of Maui, the King Kamehameha Day festivities includes the Na Kamehameha Commemorative Pau Parade which boasts a string of local marching bands and colorful floats that make their way down Front Street in the historic town of Lahaina. The parade route ends at the illustrious Banyan Tree Park where a Ho’olaule’a commences featuring traditional Hawaiian foods, popular island entertainment, arts, crafts, and hula dancing.
The Annual King Kamehameha Hula Competition takes place at the Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu and invites participants from all over the world. The contest encompasses both the kahiko (traditional) and auana (contemporary) hula styles and offers several categories for competitors to perform in.
The individual Hawaiian Islands were united as one over 200 years ago and Kamehameha I became the first king to ascend the throne. King Kamehameha Day is a time for Hawaiians to honour the great warrior and remember his contribution to their history through cultural celebrations and joyous festivities.