King Kamehameha Day
Also known as
annually on June 11th (since 1872)
Kamehameha V (Kamehama's grandson) on December 22nd, 1871
King Kamehameha Day is a public holiday in Hawaiʻi that honors Kamehameha I, the Hawaiian king who was also known as Kamehameha the Great and the Napoleon of the Pacific. Kamehameha is known for establishing the unified Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810, which brought together the islands of Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻi. He was monarch of Hawaiʻi from 1782 until his death on May 8, 1819. The holiday was proclaimed by Kamehameha's grandson, Kamehameha V, on December 22, 1871; it was first observed the following year. After Hawaiʻi became a state in 1959, the holiday was proclaimed by its governor and legislature as well.
Celebrations at the time of the day's creation consisted of fairs, carnivals, and races on foot, horse, and velocipede. Presently, the day nods to the ancient Hawaiian traditions that Kamehameha fought to preserve as his land was being influenced by European culture. Each year, the Kamehameha Hula Competition takes place, where hula groups come to the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu from all over the world. Floral parades take place in different locations throughout Hawaiʻi. One of the biggest is on Oʻahu, where it begins at 'Iolani Palace and ends in Kapiʻolani Park, where a party with food, music, and cultural exhibitions then takes place. Three floral parades are held on the island of Hawaiʻi alone. Festivals are held on many of the islands, and many schools and businesses are closed.
Beginning in 1901, the Kamehameha statue in Honolulu started being draped with lei on the day each year. Today, lei-draping ceremonies take place at the other five Kamehameha statues as well. The statue in Honolulu was dedicated in 1883; it was a re-cast of the original statue, which had been lost at sea. Earlier that year, the original statue was lost when the ship that was carrying it sank near the Falkland Islands while on its way to Hawaiʻi. It was found by Falkland Islanders and is now in North Kohala on the island of Hawaiʻi. A duplicate is located in Emancipation Hall in the United States Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C. This statue was commissioned when Hawaiʻi became a state in 1959 and was brought to the Capitol in 1969. Originally placed in Statuary Hall, it was moved to Emancipation Hall after Barack Obama was nominated as president. There are also duplicate statues in Hilo, on the island of Hawaiʻi; at the Grand Wailea resort on Maui; and at the Las Vegas Hawaiian Marketplace.
How to Observe
The day can best be celebrated by visiting Hawaiʻi! You could attend the Kamehameha Hula Competition, a floral parade, a festival, or a lei-draping ceremony. To see all the official events taking place, go to this page. If you can't make it to Hawaiʻi, perhaps you could spend the day reading about King Kamehameha, or by making a lei.