In 1871, while Hawai’i was still a monarchy, Kamehameha Day was established by royal proclamation. King Kamehameha V declared June 11th as a day to remember his great grandfather, King Kamehameha I, unifier of all Hawai’i. When Hawai’i became a state many years later, this day became the first officially recognized state holiday. Today in Hawai’i, you will continue to see and hear numerous references to this remarkable figure from Hawai’i’s past.
Born on the Big Island of Hawai’i in 1758, the same year as Haley’s comet appeared in Hawaiian skies, Kamehameha was, from the beginning, a man of legend. There are numerous stories of his many feats as a warrior before becoming king, but, most importantly, he accomplished what no other had in Hawai’i’s history when he united all the islands under one rule. Thus began the Hawaiian monarchy, which continued until the 19th century! Under his twenty-four year rule, Hawai’i became a recognized political entity and trade was established with America and Europe. King Kamehameha was considered an honest, just, and innovative ruler during a time of great change in Hawaii.
There are four statues in honor of this great king, but the one best known and most photographed stands across from Iolani Palace, in front of the Aliiolani Hale, in downtown Honolulu. Each year, on Kamehameha Day, the statue is draped with many beautiful, 25 ft long lei in tribute. A floral parade, the longest in Hawai’i and very much like the Rose Parade of California, takes place in Waikiki, followed by a Ho’olaulea (festival) with live entertainment, hula, cultural games and demonstrations, food booths, and more! Other islands also hold events in his honor, but if you are on Oahu, you don’t want to miss out on the spectacle and festivities of Kamehameha Day!
King Kamehameha I is a not to be forgotten part of Hawaii’s history. The monarchy no longer rules and Hawai’i is now a part of the United States of America, but Kamehameha is still remembered with respect on this state holiday with royal ties, Kamehameha Day!