Honoring the King Who Unified the Hawaiian Islands

Kamehameha the Great

Kamehameha the Great unified the Hawaiian Islands

On Monday, June 12 the state of Hawai’i observes King Kamehameha Day, one of two holidays that recognize Hawaiian royalty (Prince Kuhio Day is the other). The holiday is usually celebrated on the king’s birthday of June 11 but this year the date falls on a Sunday (so the holiday is Monday).

King Kamehameha 1 aka Kamehameha the Great unified the Hawaiian Islands to form the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810. He ruled until his death in 1819 and the monarchy continued until the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893.

Kamehameha’s grandson, Lot Kapuaiwa aka Kamehameha V, established the first King Kamehameha Day on June 11, 1872. The commoners attended fairs, carnivals, horse races and more to honor their former king. When Hawai’i became a state in 1959, the state legislature continued the royal holiday.

Today on Maui, there is a parade in Lahaina and a commemorative march in Kahului. The parade includes marching bands, colorful floats, and pa’u riders on horseback culminating at the famous Banyan Tree Park for a Ho’olaule’a (public party featuring Hawaiian foods, entertainment, and crafts). The march is organized by the Royal Order of Kamehameha and includes members of the four royal societies marching solemnly down Ka’ahumanu Avenue to honor the king’s memory. I have participated in several marches as a member of Ahahui Ka’ahumanu, a royal society of Native Hawaiian women honoring Queen Ka’ahumanu, the favorite wife of King Kamehameha.

On Oahu, there is a lei draping ceremony at King Kamehameha’s statue at Ali’iolani Hale, the annual King Kamehameha Hula Competition at Blaisdell Arena, and the floral parade in Waikiki. The King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade is the longest parade in the state.

On the Big Island of Hawai’i, there is a lei draping ceremony at the original statue of King Kamehameha at his birthplace in North Kohala followed by a Ho’olaule’a, and the Kamehameha Festival in Hilo.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

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Mele Fong is a professional singer, song arranger, and master of multiple strumming styles for the ukulele. Mele plays ukulele, guitar, and piano, dances hula, and teaches Hawaiian history. She performs as a soloist, in the professional husband and wife duo, The Hawaiian Serenaders, and in the Maui Ukulele Jazz Trio. In 1996, the duo represented the State of Hawaii during State Days at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Mele and her husband Richard Tom reside in Maui.