Your trip to Maui may be delayed, but why not start learning about Hawaii? It’s a nice little diversion from coronavirus news. When you do arrive, you’ll have a primer on the history and culture of the islands.
Some visitors refer to the mainland U.S. as “the States”, but Hawai’i is a state in the United States- the 50th one in fact. However, Hawai’i is very different from any other state, not only because it is made up of islands but also because it used to be its own country.
Hawaiian culture is very unique, and many Hawaiians still practice their customs and traditions today. Hawai’i was first settled 1,500 years ago. Polynesian people arrived by boat after sailing hundreds of miles on outrigger canoes. Polynesia is made up of many small islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The Polynesians brought many traditions from their culture. These traditions would change some over time.
Some historical icons of Hawaiian culture still popular today include hula dancing, leis (pronounced “layz”), and surfing.
Hula dancing is one of the oldest traditions. Often done while people are playing music or chanting, the Hula dance is used to convey traditional stories. Hula is beautiful to watch, and fun to try.
You probably know leis are necklaces usually made of flowers. Traditionally, they were also made with leaves, shells, seeds, and nuts. But did you know they sometimes incorporated bones and teeth? Leis are sometime s used to show rank. They are also given to welcome someone or to show appreciation. A lei called the Maile lei (pronounced “my-lee lay”) is a symbol of peace. Photo: Lei niho ʻīlio, dogs’ teeth and fiber lei, Bailey House Museum.
Surfing, originally called wave sliding, wasn’t exactly the fun leisure pastime it is today. Centuries ago in Hawaiian culture, surfing was taken seriously and used to show participants were strong enough to conquer the ocean. The type of board used and wave one was allowed to ride was determined by social status. Women and men both surfed. Stories about the mythical Maui Princess Kelea describe her as one of the best surfers in the Hawaiian kingdom. The demi-god Mamala is depicted as a half-woman, half-shark who rode the waves. Onlookers would pray for the person surfing. Surfing is now common on Maui. It started a resurgence in the 1950’s, becoming popular in the 1960’s with surfer movies like Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii and through bands like the Beach Boys.
People say that there is an “Aloha Spirit” in Hawaiian culture. The word “aloha” (pronounced “ah-lo-ha”) is often used as a friendly way to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ or ‘I love you’ in Hawaiian. But “aloha” means much more. It is a way to express caring, compassion, and gratitude. The ‘Aloha Spirit” encourages us to interact respectfully in the natural world. You may hear the terms ‘pono’ (do what is right) or ‘respect the aina (land),’ These insights describe an attitude or way of life on Maui, in which we embrace the aloha spirit.
Maui will be here when you are ready to travel. We look forward to sharing our aloha with you.