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  • Liana Macdonald-Kainoa

Makahiki: The Hawaiian New Year

Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou to you and your ʻohana. We have officially reached a new year and 2020 is behind us. Cultures across the world celebrate this time of the year with their own traditions and practices. Hawaiian tradition follows the lunar calendar and therefore; the new year has already passed but we are still currently in the season of Makahiki.


Ancient Hawaiians demarcated Makahiki or the “New Year” by the celestial observation of Makaliʻi, the Pleiades constellation. Generally Makahiki would start when Makaliʻi rises over the horizon at sunset. Makahiki, short for Lono-i-ka-makahiki, is a four-month period that starts around October/November and runs to February/March. This time was dedicated to Lono; the god of rain, fertility, and agriculture. This period signified paying hoʻokupu (tribute) to chiefs, celebration, and rites of purification.


The season coincides with heavy rains, strong winds, and storms. People were encouraged to rest, partake in sports, games, and feasting. All war activities and labor were kapu (prohibited).


For religious purposes, activities such as deep sea fishing were considered kapu, because it was dedicated to the war god Kūkailimoku. Not only that but the ocean during this time was at its roughest.


With that in mind this period is also a time for the ʻāina and kai to rest and replenish. The rains would prepare the land again for the upcoming planting season and fishing was greatly reduced and would allow populations to flourish.


This festival is very much alive today since the Hawaiian cultural renaissance of the 1970’s renewed this celebration. Here are some ways that you can celebrate this season and time of the year.


1. Spend time with family and friends: This time of the year coincides with the holidays, and generally a time of gathering of loved ones. Be sure to carve out quality time for your favorite people.


2. Partake in friendly competition: Like the ancient Greeks, the ancient Hawaiians had their own form of sports and games. Perhaps look into learning about traditional games such as Ulu Maika, which can be akin to bowling. The objective of the game is to roll a pōhaku (stone) in between two sticks. There is also kōnane which is closely resembled to checkers. If youʻre interested in learning how to play check out this site. Other sports include forms of boxing (mokomoko), arm wrestling, spear throwing, and foot races. If you have a favorite game, gather up your friends and family, and allow yourself space to play! Have fun!


3. Give thanks and appreciation: During this time of winter, hibernation, or rest; we can contemplate what we are thankful for and how we can show our appreciation. Itʻs time to prepare our body, mind, and soul for the upcoming season.


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