It is feasting time in Hawaii, according to a calendar far older than the one that marks Thanksgiving. The Hawaii winter holiday of Makahiki is a time to rest from work, pause warfare and celebrate with traditional food and games. It begins when the Pleiades star cluster is visible in the night sky and continues for four months.

Although the pace of life in the islands doesn’t follow the stars as it once did, there are cultural celebrations during this time. Last Sunday, a full day of activities at Waimea Valley on Oahu marked the beginning of Makahiki. The television news this week showed school children competing in traditional games as a seasonal observance. Hawaii Community College hosted its fifth annual Makahiki Games yesterday.

Many Hawaii hotels offer special Makahiki programs and activities for guests who want to know more about Hawaii culture and history. On Maui, the Old Lahaina Luau hosted several hundred children who played traditional games similar to checkers, bowling, hand wrestling and tug of war this week. Even the military takes note. This year the Pearl Harbor – Hickam joint base hosted a Makahiki Festival at the beach that included native Hawaiian chants and traditional games for service members and their families to learn more about the island culture.

Another way traditions live on is through food. When we gather for Thanksgiving dinner later today, our turkey will be fresh from an overnight roast in an underground imu. None of us dug the pit in our own back yards, but we are able to share both the traditional cooking method and contribute to our community. Kailua High School holds a fundraiser each year at this time. Members of the community bring their food on trays and for a small donation, students cook the food overnight. The money earned supports the school athletic program and the cooperative nature of the enterprise supports us all.

More about Makahiki: Winter-long Celebration in Hawaii

More about imus: Hawaii Beach Imu, Kalua Pig is Hawaii Custom


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