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Makahiki celebrates life's blessings

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

LAST UPDATED: 3:45 a.m. HST, Nov 8, 2011

The Makahiki was a time when men, women and chiefs rested and abstained from all work. (It) began in Ikuwa, the last month of the period called Kau, and the month corresponding to October, and continued through the first three months of the period Hooilo: Welehu, Makalii and Kaelo, which corresponded with November, December and January.

Flags were displayed from the heiau (temples), to announce the coming of the Makahiki festival, the services at the royal heiau were suspended, and the chiefs and people ... betook themselves to sports, games and the pursuit of pleasure.

In this way was the Makahiki observed every year from earliest times. -- From David Malo's "Hawaiian Antiquities"

Kumu Keala Ching hopes kamaaina and visitors will gather at Hawaii island's Makahiki and Healing Garden Festival in the same spirit of peace, gratitude and enjoyment. Hawaii Health Guide, which provides resources for personal, environmental and community health, and the Na Wai Iwi Ola Foundation, the nonprofit cultural organization for which Ching serves as executive director, are collaborating for the first time to produce this event.

"Makahiki is about celebrating life and remembering all the blessings we've received," Ching said. "It is about honoring the gods, the land, the sea and our ancestors. It is about living a life of aloha aku, aloha mai -- continually giving and receiving love. It is about spiritually and physically rejuvenating ourselves for the next planting and harvest or, in a modern context, for whatever our life's pursuits may be."


» Place: Keauhou Beach Resort, 78-6740 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona

» Date: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 19

» Admission: Free

» Information: Call 638-0888 or email

» Website:

» Accommodations: Keauhou Beach Resort is offering a kamaaina rate of $99 per night, including a breakfast buffet for two, during the festival. Call 324-2515 between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays and mention the "Makahiki Weekend package."

» Hula workshops: Three sessions, at 1, 3 and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18, in the resort's ballroom, led by hula masters Iwalani Kalima, Hulali Solomon Covington, Laakea Arista and Paakea Akiu. Cost is $20 per workshop or $50 for all three. Call 640-1384.



The "E Mau Ana ka Hula" program takes place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the main stage. Cultural events on the oceanfront stage include:

» 9 a.m.: Kahikina's Nahenahe Ohana ukulele ensemble.

» 10 a.m.: Lomilomi stick massage demonstration by Artemio Pascual.

» 11 a.m.: Lecture on medicinal plants by David Bruce Leonard, healing practitioner and author of "Wild Wisdom and Medicine at Your Feet: Healing Plants of the Hawaiian Kingdom."

» Noon: Lono ceremony.

» 1 to 3 p.m.: Makahiki games.

» 2 p.m.: Slack-key guitar workshop by Bolo Mikiela Rodrigues.

» 3 p.m.: Ukulele artist Maka Gallinger.

» 4 p.m.: Slack-key guitarist Bolo Mikiela Rodrigues performs.


At the core of the festival will be "E Mau Ana ka Hula (Hula Is Perpetuated)," which Ching is presenting for the fifth year. This program of ancient and contemporary dance honors King Kalakaua, nicknamed the "Merrie Monarch." During his reign from 1874 to 1891, Kalakaua revived the hula, which the Christian missionaries, deeming it lewd, had forbidden their Hawaiian converts to practice.

"I wanted to create an event where halau from all islands could perform in a noncompetitive environment," Ching said. "I feel without the competitive component, they can dance with a spirit of true sharing."

Fourteen halau from Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii island will be featured at this year's event, including Ching's own Ka Pa Hula na Wai Iwi Ola.

In keeping with the festival's theme of health and healing, an outdoor expo will spotlight lomilomi massage; healthy foods, including shave ice made with natural fruit flavors; and pharmaceutical products derived from herbs and medicinal plants.

Cultural practitioners will demonstrate canoe lashing and the making of poi, awa (kava), pahu (drums), ipu (gourds), lau hala weaving, nose flutes, kapa (tapa) and ohe kapala (bamboo stamps for decorating kapa).

Attendees can try their hand at makahiki games, including ulu maika (bowling), moa pahee (dart throwing), konane (checkers), haka moa (wrestling) and kakalaau (similar to fencing).

Honoring tradition, Ching will lead ceremonies for Laka, goddess of the hula, and Lono, god of agriculture. Legend tells of Lono's union with Kaikilani, a lovely maiden who lived in Waipio Valley. Jealousy overcame him when he heard others speak of her beauty, and he beat her. As she lay dying, she spoke of her love only for him.

Sad and angry at what he had done, Lono traveled to every district on the island, challenging men to compete with him in all manner of sports. That, so the story goes, is how the makahiki games developed.

"The Makahiki and Healing Garden Festival is an authentic cultural experience that brings kamaaina and visitors together as ohana to celebrate our connection to the aina," Ching said. "It reminds us of the need to rejuvenate and replenish ourselves not only during this season, but every day of our lives."


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

Tour filled with Hawaiian history

The Huakai Alii Tour brings the history and traditions of the area surrounding the Keauhou Beach Resort to life. Among topics discussed during this 90-minute cultural journey are ahupuaa (land divisions extending from the mountains to the sea), ancient stone building techniques and the history of two restored heiau on site.

Participants also hear tales of Hawaiian chiefs, discover how the Hawaiians conserved land and sea resources, and visit King Kalakaua's Cottage, a replica of the summer residence of Hawaii's "Merrie Monarch."

To close the tour, the group recites a chant written by Kumu Keala Ching, "E Ala E," which means "Awaken the Light Within." It refers to an old saying: "Piha ka pea i ka eka e," meaning "the sails of the canoe are filled by the wind called eka of Kona."

"That is a metaphor for learning," Ching said. "People come to Kona to fill their sails of knowledge so they can move forward like a canoe."

The tour is offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, recommended for ages 12 and older. Cost is $40 ($60 with lunch); free for resort guests staying at least three nights. Reservations required at least two days in advance for those wanting lunch. Call 324-2540.

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