Makahiki – Hawaiian New Year Festival

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Aloha and Hau'oli Makahiki Hou (Happy New Year)!

In the Hawaiian language, the word Makahiki means "year" as well as the change from harvest time to the beginning of the agricultural season.

The Makahiki season was the ancient Hawaiian New Year festival, in honor of the god Lono (associated with agriculture, fertility, rainfall, music and peace).

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It was a holiday over four lunar months, from October or November through February or March. Many think of it being similar to the modern Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions. Many religious ceremonies happened during this period. People stopped working, made offerings to their chief or aliʻi, and then spent their time practicing sports, feasting, dancing and having a good time. War during those four months was forbidden (kapu). Today, the Aloha Festivals (originally Aloha Week) celebrate the Makahiki tradition.

The Makahiki festival was celebrated in three phases. The first phase was a time of spiritual cleansing and making hoʻokupu, offerings to the gods. The Konohiki, a class of royalty that at this time of year provided the service of tax collector, collected agricultural and aquacultural products such as pigs, taro, sweet potatoes, and dry fish. Some offerings were in the form of forest products such as feathers. Hawaiian people had no money or other similar medium of exchange at the time. These offerings were presented on the altars of Lono at heiau - temples - in each district around the Island. Offerings also were made at the ahu, stone altars set up at the boundary lines of each community.

All war was outlawed to allow unimpeded passage of the image of Lono. The festival proceeded in a clockwise circle around the island as the image of Lono (Akua Loa, a long pole with a strip of tapa and other embellishments attached) was carried by the priests. At each ahupuaʻa (each community also is called anahupuaʻa) the caretakers of that community presented hoʻokupu to the Lono image, a fertility god who caused things to grow and who gave plenty and prosperity to the islands.

The second phase was a time of celebration: of hula dancing, of sports (boxing, wrestling, sliding on sleds, javelin marksmanship, bowling, surfing, canoe races, relays, and swimming), of singing and of feasting. One of the best preserved lava sled courses is the Keauhou Holua National Historic Landmark.

In the third phase, the waʻʻauhau — tax canoe — was loaded with hoʻokupu and taken out to sea where it was set adrift as a gift to Lono. At the end of the Makahiki festival, the chief would go off shore in a canoe. When he came back, he stepped on shore and a group of warriors threw spears at him. He had to deflect or parry the spears to prove his worthiness to continue to rule.

Mahalo and do something nice for someone today....spread the Aloha Spirit!

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Mahalo for reading. Please share the Aloha Spirit and do something nice for someone today. We welcome your comments and feedback. This blog is brought to you by Kapo Trading Company -- with over 3000 fun, unique and authentic Hawaiian items, we deliver Hawaii to you!

If you enjoyed this post....
  • and you are planning a party or luau
  • and want to your guests to be doing the hula
  • and a party/luau your guests will be raving about for months!

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