Traditionally created as a form of worship, hula dancing is the most famous native entertainment in Hawaii. When it began, only men took part and it was quite different to the hula dancing which you will witness on the islands today. The leaf skirts and flowers have really only arrived over the past two centuries. There are numerous locations where you will get to see hula performances but the longest standing and most popular is the Kodak Hula Show at the Waikiki Band Sell in Oahu’s Kapiolani Park. In operation since 1937, the show takes place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and admission is free. And, if you really want to see the dance at its best head to the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival on the Big Island during the first week after Easter.
Luaus were originally a lavish feast which were held in honour of royalty, foreign dignitaries or weddings, christenings or birthdays. They often lasted several days and a great deal of preparation was required. Today the luau has become a major tourist attraction and dozens are held every day on all of the bigger islands. While the preparations have been somewhat reduced, many traditions including the roast pig are still part of the event. And, while there are many different types, the general idea is to drink, party and soak up the wonderful Polynesia atmosphere. There are some, however, where the emphasis is on education rather than entertainment so depending on your requirements, check the details before you make your reservation.
This festival is Hawaii’s largest festival and the only state wide celebration in the US. Originally known as Aloha Week, this is a cultural celebration of the state’s music, dance and history and was designed to help preserved the unique Hawaiian traditions. Little did the original organisers know that the festival itself would become an island tradition. Now, over three hundred events take place on each of the six islands including parades, hula competitions and beach concerts. The setting is second to none and the atmosphere is amazing. So, if you can organise your trip to coincide with the festival, grab your floral necklace and your hula and check out this remarkable event.
World Fire-Knife Dance Championships and Samoan Festival
This event usually takes place in mid-may (May 16th – 19th, 2001) and is one of the craziest and amazing performances you will probably ever see. Taking place in the Polynesian Cultural Centre on Oahu, the festival sees fire knife dancers from Hawaii, American Samoa, Western Samoa and the US risk burning and stabbing in the name of the festival. No protective clothing of any type is permitted yet the top price is only $4,000 - oh they get a new knife too. For those of you who can’t conjure up an image of fire dancing in your mind, use your imagination a little more. Basically the contestants set fire to knives and dance around throwing the knives in the air, catching them, putting them to their lips, resting them on bare feet and other such acts of utter insanity. As well as the dancing, there are also numerous other cultural festivities taking place so if you’re feeling a little uneasy why not check out the basket weaving or banana peeling competitions.
Lei Day Celebrations
The first of May is Lei Day in Hawaii and celebrates the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei – the flower garlands synonymous with the islands for those of you wondering what a lei is. Lei Day was first celebrated back in 1928 with everyone being encouraged to wear one. As well as this there was hula competitions, traditional music, lei making demonstrations and contests. The following year the event was pronounced an official holiday and this has been the case ever since, with the exception of the period during World War II. Today the festivities are similar to those of the first celebration but of course they have grown immensely since then. Events take place on all the major islands and if you want to experience some authentic Hawaiian culture on your trip, this is definitely one of the better ways and days to do so.