On this Labor Day weekend, many in Hawaii pause to remember the last monarch of these islands with celebrations honoring Queen Liliuokalani. She was born on September 2, 1838 and served as monarch for almost two years (from 1891 to 1893) until she was deposed by a coalition of U.S. businessmen and military forces. A statue in her honor stands between Iolani Palace and the State Capitol building, framed by an enormous banyan tree.

The queen was an accomplished composer. She wrote one of the songs most associated with Hawaii: Aloha Oe. A Wikipedia article says that the statue of the Queen shows her holding a copy of Aloha Oe. I haven’t looked at it closely enough to see if that is true. One of the birthday celebrations this year was held at a Honolulu elementary school named for her. It included performances of hula and songs written by Queen Liliuokalani.

A public birthday celebration for the queen will be Sunday at Iolani Palace. Palace admission is free from 10-4 as part of the event, called Onipaa. It begins with entertainment from The Royal Hawaiian Band and children from a local school. A church service honoring the queen is at noon followed by musical performances. There will be cultural demonstrations all day on the palace lawn.

At 4:30, chanters will perform mele (chants) that were written during the time of the overthrow. Themes of the mele include adoration for the queen and unrest at the political situation. Living history walking tours called Mai Poina (Don’t Forget) will be held from 5-6 pm. People in costumes “interpret the significant events and sites surrounding the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom through a dramatic narrative.” According to the news release, these walking tours have been very popular with more than 1,300 attending last year. They are designed to educate both residents and visitors about Hawaii history. The walking tours will be repeated on September 9 and 10, 2011.

The celebration of Queen Liliuokalani’s birthday is an annual event, one of many that take place in early September, such as the Aloha Festivals and the Okinawan Festival. Any would be a great addition to a Hawaii vacation, adding an authentic local flavor.


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