King Kamehameha Day Celebrations in Hawaii

The beginning of summer in Hawaii is marked by the most celebrated holidays in the Hawaii. King Kamehameha Day is Monday, June 11 and is much more than just a state holiday. Here is a look at Hawaii’s first king and the festivities celebrating his accomplishments.

Oahu Celebration

June 8, 2012 – Lei Draping Ceremony at the Statue of King Kamehameha fronting Ali`iolani Hale, 3:30pm June 9, 2012 – 96th Annual King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade `Iolani Palace to Kapi`olani Park, starting at 9am June 9, 2012 – King Kamehameha Ho`olaule`a – Kapiolani Park, 10am – 4pm Visit the State of Hawaii website for interisland activities.

Kamehameha the Great: Hawaii’s First King

This day celebrates King Kamehameha the Great, the man who unified the Hawaiian Islands and formed the Kingdom of Hawaii. Ancient Hawaiian legend surrounding his birth point to the prophecy of a great king who would unify the Hawaiian Islands being born with the passing of a comet. Halley’s Comet passed over Hawaii in 1759, leading many to believe he was the one to fulfill it. There is a likely chance he was born shortly after the passing of Halley’s Comet because historical records describe him as a member of royal court in the late 1770′s, before he unified the islands and became king. Kamehameha was also present at Kealakekua Bay when Captain James Cook first landed there in 1779. Whether the prophecy is true or not, this man did more for Hawaii than anyone else in history. For these accomplishments, we honor him today with Kamehameha Day.
As King, Kamehameha’s focus was to preserve Hawaiian culture, and protect the people of Hawaii through the rising presence and influence of western culture in Hawaii. Passing legislation while he reigned as king, he upheld these ideals by preventing non-Hawaiians from owning land, and ended human sacrifice as a ritual. Kamehameha I had passed away by the time the first Christian missionaries landed in Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawaii in 1820. In fact, those first missionaries had to request permission of Liholiho (Kamehameha II) to come ashore. (Mahalo to Judith Kearney for the historic info!) Here is a look at the festivities planned for Kamehameha Day this year.

Kamehameha Day Celebrations

Lei Draping Ceremony

The Lei Draping Ceremony at the King Kamehameha the Great statue which stands before Ali’iolani Hale is a ritual that begins the celebrations every year. Many people make long flower leis, anywhere from 15 to 30 feet, and place them over his neck or arm which is outstretched as if greeting the people of Hawaii. Hundreds of spectators make their way to the grounds of Ali’iolani Hale for a performance of the Royal Hawaiian Band and traditional Hula dancers. This year the Lei Draping Ceremony starts at 3:30 p.m.

Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki Floral Parade

The next morning following the Lei Draping Ceremony is the King Kamehameha Floral Parade. Beginning on Saturday, June 9 at 9:00 a.m. at Iolani Palace, a caravan of beautifully decorated floats, hula dancers, Hawaiian music, Miss Hawaii, a color guard from the Royal Hawaiian Guard, beautifully dressed Pa’u riders, the Royal Hawaiian Marching Band, and many other local community groups. The parade will make it’s way through downtown Honolulu and Waikiki ending at Kapiolani Park, where a Ho’olaule’a celebration will follow. If you’re staying in Waikiki this weekend expect to see the parade down Kalakaua Avenue, and take some time to enjoy this rare cultural treat!

Ho’olaule’a Celebration at Kapiolani Park

The tradition of holding a Ho’olaule’a celebration at Kapiolani Park for Kamehameha Day dates back longer than the tradition of the parade. Horse races and games of skill were among early Hawaiian favorites of the Ho’olaule’a. More contemporary features of the celebration include live music, local foods, and arts and crafts vendors. The Ho’olaule’a kicks off at 10:00 a.m. with the arrival of the floral parade and goes until 4:00 p.m. Just a short walk past the hotels on the Waikiki strip, checking out this cultural celebration would be a great experience for the whole family. Not only is it a free event,  it’s a fun way to start a day at Waikiki Beach!

Neighbor Island Celebrations of Kamehameha Day

The islands of Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii each have their own Kamehameha Day celebrations. They each consist of a parade and a Ho’olaule’a as part of the celebrations. The island of Hawaii has two statues, one in Kohala and one in Hilo, which are both draped with leis to start their respective celebrations on June 10. Maui & Kauai will both have celebrations on June 16. Be sure to check with your concierge to find out more information if you’re staying on a neighbor island and would like to see the festivities. Aloha!

Written By: