Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Makahiki Festival

“Ok, so there’s a Hawaiian tradition of celebrating Makahiki, which is, um, like kind of like a lunar festival but not quite. But it’s like celebrating a god named Lono, he was like a war god so they always had like war-related games during his festival. And usually the festival took place in like March, and I remember my high school would celebrate it, because during like third grade, we would learn a lot about the Hawaiian culture. And at the beginning of the festival there would always be a march, and like a call? It’s called like a chant, it’s like a … I don’t remember how the chant went, but I remember we used to have to chant it. And it was quite lengthy. But it like, after you chanted it, you would really feel like the spiritualness of it. And basically they’d have a little march, and the leader would blow a conch shell, which is like a big…cone shell, and it makes a horn kinda noise…hahahaha…and …hahahahahahaha…and anyways, so like and everyone would wear these white, um, like pieces of kapa, kinda like a Greek tunic, but it would be made out of Hawaiian materials. And we would all walk from the classrooms to the field where they would have this really elaborate setup. And there’d be like a giant field like kinda marked off with like coconut rope. And they way they’d make that is that like they get these like coconuts and they husk them, and then they braid together the ropes. And it’s quite, like, laborous, labor-intensive. And then they have like these special stones that mark like the corners or the, like the entrance, and you have to do…this like special, special ritual with the native Hawaiians, before you can enter into this sacred space for Makahiki. And you have to like press your forehead, touch foreheads, and you have to like take a breath together. Yeahhh… I remember in third grade it was kind of awkward, but like that’s what you had to do, so ok! You just did it! And then they would give you little pieces of sweet potato, and you’d just eat it. And you’d go inside and they’d have little games set up, and like there’d be spear throwing, so you’d actually get to throw like a wooden spear. Like it would be kinda duller, but you threw it into like a banana stalk. And then like, if you got it in, then you’d be like AW YEAH! And…hahahahahaha…hahahahaha…hahahaha…and then there were other games, like this kinda like rock bowling. Like all these things have special Hawaiian names, but like I don’t remember what they’re called but. So basically, you just kinda roll like this puck-shaped stone between these two sticks, and you have a partner, and then like each time the distance just like grows. And you get really good at throwing rocks…hahahahaha. And then there was like, a bunch of foot races and like wrestling, like various kinds of wrestling. Because like Lono was the war god, so we did a lot of…kind of like…wrestling, warlike, military…like not quite military, but you know. Fighting-ish kind of games. Yeah, and it was fun. Celebrated every year.”

My informant recalls her celebration of the annual Makahiki festival from elementary school all the way through high school. Makahiki is actually a much longer celebration, more of a season than a single holiday, but her school would observe it for one day only. Festivals bring together many different kinds of folklore. My informant recalls singing, games, ritualized actions, and food all in this single event. One of the more interesting points she touched on was the entering of the festival space. As she explained, only native Hawaiians could take part in the ritual to allow people in, creating an actual physical barrier between the sacred space inside and everything else outside. This makes the festival a somewhat exclusive event, since certain actions must be observed before anyone can enter.

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