King Kamehameha Day is celebrated annually in Hawaii on June 11th, to honor the life and times of its greatest statesman, warrior, and king, known as Kamehameha the Great.
Some interesting historical facts on the day
- King Kamehameha Day was established by royal decree of the ruling great-grandson, Kamehameha V, in 1871, and first celebrated on June 11, 1872.
- It is one of the first holidays proclaimed by the Governer of Hawaii and the State Legislature upon Hawaii's transformation to statehood in 1959.
- King Kamehameha Day is the only holiday in the United States created to honor a once-reigning monarch in the only state that was once a kingdom.
- 2009 marks the 137th anniversary of the celebration of King Kamehameha Day.
Who was King Kamehameha?
At the time of his birth, Hawaiians believed Kamehameha fulfilled the traditional prophesy that there would be a male born who would vanquish all other chiefs, becoming the greatest of all Hawaiian chiefs, and that the sign of his birth would be a comet. Kamehameha's actual birthdate is not specifically known, but is sometimes listed as between 1748 and 1761, and some believe it was 1758 - a year that Halley's Comet was visible from Hawaii.
He spent his childhood being trained in warfare skills and preparing for the role of warrior-king of the Island of Hawaii. He went on to use these skills as the first king to unify the Hawai'ian Islands: Ni'ihau, Kaua'i, O'ahu, Moloka'i, Lānaʻi, Kaho'olawe, Maui, and Hawai'i. Once this was achieved, Kamehameha ruled in peace for the rest of his life: establishing trade with foreign countries, introducing new plant and animal life, promoting agriculture, and fostering industry. He was known as the "Napoleon of the Pacific" for his achievements in warfare and diplomacy, and died in 1819.
King Kamehameha Day Festivities
The earliest observances of the day included various competitions: horse racing, Velocipede races, sack races, wheelbarrow races, and foot races. In 1901, the tradition of the lei draping ceremony was added, where statues of King Kamehameha are decorated with leis.
In 1939, the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission was established and charged with organizing and running all festival activities. Today, those activities include:
- The traditional lei draping ceremony of King Kamehameha's statues
- The King Kamehameha Hula Competition, which has gained international attention
- The floral parades held at many locations throughout Hawaii, which include what has become a favorite feature: traditional pa'u riders. (The pa'u riders reperesent a royal court let by a queen on horseback, followed by princesses representing the 8 major islands of Hawaii and Molokini.)
- The Ho'olaule'a, which means "celebration," and is a big block party with food and music.
- The cultural exhibits set up throughout Kapi'olani Park, which are full of arts and crafts, games, sports, etc.
- And of course, there are feasts. (What celebration would be complete without those?)
So, if you're there, have a wonderful King Kamehameha Day! And if you're not, start saving your pennies - you have 364 days to pile 'em up so you can get to King Kamehameha Day 2010.