Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Makahiki festivities a tribute to Hawaiian culture

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi


In olden times, as soon as the small cluster of stars known as the Pleiades appeared in the night sky, the Hawaiians set aside their weapons and tools and prepared for the makahiki. This period of peace and festivities began in late October or early November and lasted for four months.

Fishing, farming and war were forbidden. Instead, villagers on every island celebrated with hula, songs, feasts and sports competitions, including boxing, bowling, wrestling, sledding, surfing, swimming, canoe races and javelin throwing. They gave thanks for the bounty they had received, and prayed for continued prosperity in the coming year. Offerings of food, tapa, woven mats and feathers were made to Lono, the god of harvest and agriculture.

A ceremony held at the close of the makahiki season was based on a legend about a Hawaiian king named Waia. When famine spread throughout the islands, Waia, who possessed supernatural powers, reached to the heavens and brought down a net whose four corners pointed to the north, south, east and west. The net was filled with food, which scattered far and wide when Waia shook it. Thus, he saved his people from starvation.


» Place: Waimea Valley, 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa

» Date: Nov. 21

» Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

» Admission: $13 for adults, $6 for children ages 4 through 12 and seniors 60 and older, free for kamaaina and military personnel stationed in Hawaii with valid ID

» Phone: 638-7766

» E-mail:

» Website:


For the makahiki ceremony, a maoloha (net with large meshes) was filled with food. Four men held it at each of its corners while a kahuna (priest) prayed. When the kahuna uttered the word "hapai" (lift) in his prayer, the men raised the net and shook it. If the food did not fall through the holes in the net, the priest predicted there would be famine. If the food did fall through the net, he declared the people could look forward to a fruitful year.

A basket of food was lashed to a canoe and set adrift at sea as a final gift to Lono. The chief of each island then lifted the makahiki kapu (taboos), and village life returned to normal.

Waimea Valley, on Oahu's North Shore, will host its second annual Makahiki next Sunday. The 1,800-acre valley is one of the island's last partially intact ahupuaa (ancient land division extending from the mountains to the sea). The Office of Hawaiian Affairs established Hiipaka LLC in 2007 "to preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural and natural resources of Waimea, Oahu, for generations through education and stewardship." Promoting an understanding and appreciation of makahiki traditions is one way Hiipaka hopes to fulfill its mission.

"Makahiki gives both the people and the land a time to rest and rejuvenate," said Butch Helemano, the kahu (guardian) of Hale o Lono heiau (temple), which was built in Waimea Valley between 1470 and 1700. "Most importantly, it is a time to honor Lono. Visitors and kamaaina will be part of a long tradition of celebrating the makahiki."

The event's activities include traditional games, craft demonstrations and hula, which hasn't been seen in Waimea Valley for a decade. Halau o Waimea was a hula school that practiced and performed in the valley between the 1970s and late 1990s. Nine of the halau's former members, some of whom now lead their own hula schools, will be among those dancing at this year's Makahiki.

Vendors and artisans will be selling an array of wares, including lau hala hats, beauty products made of noni and jewelry fashioned from bone, wood and sunrise shells. Practitioners from Malama Na Pua Healing Center will be providing lomilomi massages and discussing the healing properties of awa (kava) and laau lapaau (medicinal plants). In this atmosphere of sharing, Makahiki attendees will receive an authentic glimpse of the lifestyle, history and customs of the Hawaiian people.

"As a native Hawaiian kahu, the makahiki is a very spiritual time for me," Helemano said. "It bolsters my sense of cultural pride because it shows the Hawaiian culture is not dead. It is a living culture with beliefs, values and practices that are important and relevant even in these modern times."

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.


Waimea Valley will host its second annual Mai Na Kupuna Mai i ka Pa'ina o Waimea poi supper on Saturday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Na Lei Nani o Waialua will kick off the festivities with a hula performance. Following that, guests will enjoy a Hawaiian feast of kalua pig, lomilomi salmon, chicken long rice, squid luau, laulau, grilled island fish, poi, sweet potatoes and haupia.

Also planned is a screening of "The Hawaiians: Reflecting Spirit," by award-winning Hawaii-born filmmaker Edgy Lee. The documentary underscores the value of traditional Hawaiian culture and the similarities between native Hawaiians and the indigenous peoples of North America.

Tickets are $60 per person, $55 for kamaaina and military personnel stationed in Hawaii and $35 for children ages 5 through 12. Children 4 and under are free. Reservations are required. Call 638-7766.



» 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Demonstrations of coconut frond weaving; making of hu (kukui nut spinning tops) and ohe kapala (bamboo stamps for printing tapa designs); and Hawaiian games, including konane (checkers), ulu maika (lawn bowling), moa pahee (dart sliding) and oo ihe (spear throwing).
» 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Hula kahiko (ancient hula) exhibition featuring dancers from Halau i ka Wekiu, Na Lei Nani o Waialua, Halau Hooulu i ke Kapa, Halau o Waimea and Halau Hula Makana a ke Aloha
» 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Sale of native Hawaiian and exotic plants grown in Waimea Valley
» 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Demonstrations of bone carving, lau hala weaving and laau lapaau
» Noon: Guided one-hour historical tour of Waimea Valley
» Author Feng Feng Hutchins will sign her children's book "Plenty Saimin," a tribute to Hawaii's rural lifestyle in the late 1950s.
» 1 to 4 p.m.: Jam session with the Abrigo Ohana
» 2 p.m.: "What's Blooming" tour with David Orr, Waimea Valley's botanical collections specialist
» 2 to 3 p.m.: Hawaiian craft activities


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