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Preserving Traditions: How Hakalau Keeps Its Heritage Alive

a group of palm trees next to a tree

Nestled on the beautiful shores of the Big Island, the Hamakua Coast invites visitors to immerse themselves in a world where treasured traditions are carefully preserved. From ancient customs passed down through generations to the protection of unique cultural practices, tourists can delve into the heart of this place’s traditions.

This blog will explore how Hawaii keeps its rich heritage alive.

The Cultural Significance of the Hamakua Coast

Hawaii’s ancient customs and traditions are passed down through generations. They are a vital link to the past, bridging the present-day residents with their ancestors. The people view their heritage as a precious treasure — a tapestry of stories, rituals, and practices that define who they are. These traditions are not merely relics of the past but a living embodiment of the community’s values and beliefs.

The residents maintain a sense of belonging and unity by preserving and celebrating their heritage. Each cultural practice carries deep meaning rooted in the experiences and wisdom of their forefathers. From traditional music and dance to the art of storytelling, these customs provide a powerful sense of continuity and help preserve a distinct identity.

Traditional Crafts and Arts

Traditional arts and crafts are time-honored Hawaiian practices showcasing the locals’ skills, creativity, and deep connection to nature. Here are three of their most treasured traditions in this field:

Lauhala Weaving

Skilled artisans meticulously weave dried leaves from the hala tree to create beautiful mats, hats, baskets, and other useful items. This ancient craft highlights the people’s ingenuity and reminds them of how their ancestors heavily relied on these woven items. Lauhala weaving also carries the spirit of resourcefulness and sustainability, as the hala tree leaves are sustainably harvested from their community.

Featherwork (Melemele)

While Featherwork is no longer a commonly utilized practice, its impact on Hawiian culture remains significant. Through Featherwork, crafters utilized vibrant bird feathers to craft colorful adornments such as capes, headdresses, and ceremonial regalia. Each feather was carefully chosen and expertly arranged, culminating in stunning designs that mirrored the innate beauty of the Big Island. Melemele also embodied reverence for the native birds and the symbiotic relationship between humans and the environment.

Wood Carving

Hawaiian carvers transform blocks of koa wood into intricate sculptures, canoes, and household items. This showcases the community’s deep respect for the forests and the legacy of their ancestors. The koa wood’s grain and durability make it highly prized, and its transformation into functional pieces reflects the craftsmanship passed down through generations.

Language and Oral Tradition

Language and oral tradition are inseparably linked on the island, serving as channels for expressing and preserving Hawaiian culture. The following are examples of the most popular forms that thrive within this Hawaiian community:

Hawaiian Language (ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi)

The Hawaiian language is the cornerstone of its cultural identity. Revitalizing this language has been a crucial endeavor, with efforts to teach and promote its use in daily life.

Chanting (Oli)

Oli is the rhythmic recitation of poetic verses accompanied by melodic intonations. It is a spiritual invocation during significant events, ceremonies, and gatherings. Oli could also mean storytelling and a way to honor ancestors. Its melodies and carefully chosen words seemingly connect the present and the past, invoking a sense of respect and unity.

Legends and Mythology (Moʻolelo kupuna)

Hawaiian narratives are steeped in spirituality, weaving together tales of gods, goddesses, heroes, and supernatural beings. They illustrate the origin of natural phenomena, provide moral guidance, and offer insights into the complex relationships between humans and the divine. Examples include The Legend of Pele, The Story of Kamapua’a, and The Myth of Hina and the Moon.

Celebrations and Festivals

Hakalau’s celebrations and festivals represent joyful gatherings and meaningful observances. These events celebrate their ancestors’ customs while also passing on cultural values to future generations. Below are three examples of festivals in the community:

Makahiki Festival

The Makahiki Festival was a traditional Hawaiian harvest festival celebrated in winter. It marks a period of peace, rest, and feasting after the completion of agricultural activities. Through this celebration, the people came together to honor the land, express gratitude, and reaffirm their connection to nature.

Hoʻokuʻikahi Establishment Day Celebration

The Hoʻokuʻikahi Establishment Day Celebration commemorates the establishment of Hoʻokuʻikahi, an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Hawaiian culture and traditions. The event includes cultural performances, sports and educational activities, traditional crafts, and displays of historical artifacts.

Merrie Monarch Festival

Under the influence of Christian missionary teachings, Hawaiian traditions lay suppressed for years. However, Kalākaua, along with his queen Kapiʻolani, embraced the motto “Hoʻoūlu Lāhui,” aiming to foster national growth. Rejecting the suppression, Kalākaua championed Hawaiian arts, music, medicine, and, notably, the hula. The majestic ʻIolani Palace, constructed during his reign, symbolized both Hawaiian sovereignty and his opulent rule.

Without a written language, ancient Hawaiians utilized oral traditions like chants and hula to preserve genealogy, history, and mythology. Kalākaua not only relied on these traditions, but he also engaged with the island’s elders, gathering their narratives into “Legends and Myths of Hawaii.” By nurturing Hawaiian practices, he ensured the endurance of a rich heritage for generations to come.

Central to this legacy is the Merrie Monarch Festival. This festival is dedicated to safeguarding and celebrating Hawaiian history and culture while respecting its traditional foundations.

Prince Kūhiō Day

Celebrated annually every March 26th, Prince Kūhiō Day is a public holiday in honor of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole. He was a revered leader and advocate for Hawaiian rights and culture. Multiple festivities mark the day, including parades, cultural demonstrations, music, dance, and community gatherings.

King Kamehameha Day

King Kamehameha Day falls on June 11th and commemorates the achievements of “Kamehameha the Great,” who successfully united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. As a revered leader, Kamehameha’s accomplishments are celebrated annually through various island-wide festivities. Notably, Downtown Honolulu hosts a vibrant celebration, featuring the adorning of a 15-foot statue of the revered ruler with elaborate leis, some reaching up to 30 feet in length. These festivities encompass parades, abundant floral displays, and the enchanting traditional Hawaiian hula.

This day holds special importance as a testament to Kamehameha’s legacy, marking his pivotal role in shaping the history and unity of Hawaii. The celebrations not only honor his accomplishments but the cultural heritage of the islands, with parades, iconic hula dance and intricate floral creations contributing to the vibrant festivities that commemorate his enduring influence.

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Book your visit now at 808-731-1160, and let us be your gateway to an extraordinary Hawaii experience!