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The History of King Kamehameha Day in Hawaii

Hawaii's Best Vacation Travel and Culture Guide to Hawaii

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Hawaii is one of incredible culture and rich history. The history and culture of these Polynesian islands are often highlighted through public holidays that celebrate the phenomenal traditions of Hawaii.

One such holiday, celebrated annually on June 11th, honors the first monarch who established the Kingdom of Hawaii, Kamehameha the Great. The holiday is celebrated across the eight major Hawaiian islands of Hawaii: O'ahu, Maui, Ni'ihau, Kaua'i, Moloka'i, Lāna'i, Kaho'olawe, and Hawai'i Island.

What is King Kamehameha Day?

After uniting the islands, Kamehameha the Great became the first King of Hawaii and this day is a celebration and memorial of him. King Kamehameha Day is a beautiful celebration of not only Kamehameha the Great but also, the protection and preservation of the Hawaiian culture. Celebrated in a festival style, King Kamehameha Day is enjoyed by thousands of Hawaiian locals and tourists on June 11th every year. The festival celebration features traditional Hawaiian song, dance, and chats along with delicious food, arts, and crafts.

The History of King Kamehameha Day

After years of strife and conflict across what is now known as the Hawaiian islands, Kamehameha the Great united the islands into one kingdom in 1810. He became the first King of Hawaii and was known as a wise diplomat, fierce warrior, and was highly respected as a leader. Sixty-one years later, King Kamehameha V, his great-grandson, declared by royal decree that June 11th would be King Kamehameha Day in honor of his memory.

The day was also implemented as a replacement for Hawaiian Sovereignty Restoration Day that took place on July 31st, a holiday King Kamehameha V disapproved of due to association with the Paulet affair. The first celebration took place on June 11th, 1872 and the early festivities were celebrated through grand carnivals.

During the years of 1893 and 1898, celebrations fell to the wayside after the overthrow of Hawaii but the day continued to be recognized and was re-established when Hawaii became a United States territory in 1898. The celebration has been an annual event ever since and was one of the first public holidays proclaimed on Hawaii State Legislature when the islands entered statehood in 1959. 

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