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With a history extending more than a thousand years, Hawaii is a place of rich and unique culture that makes a visit to its tropical shores all the more exhilarating. From music to crafts and the iconic leis, Hawaii’s traditions provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of its natives, and with many hotels and resorts such as Outrigger Waikiki taking a special interest in putting these multi-faceted customs on display, the heart of Hawaii is never far from your fingertips.
Lei of Aloha
As early as the 1800’s, travelers returned to the continents with stories of Hawaiian women who “delighted in flowers, wearing wreaths on their heads...in the most beautiful way.” Lei are worn around the head or neck and are given from the heart to celebrate births, birthdays, great loves and grand events. Lei can be strung from blossoms, seeds, tied feathers and even the tiny Ni‘ihau shells, more valuable than pearls. In Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day. Everyone wears a lei, from bankers to bus drivers.
Carved in the smooth lava, on large boulders or in cliff faces, these images offer clues to island life before recorded history and are found throughout Polynesia. Some images commemorate events, others represent a metaphor or mystical image, some may even be a guide to fishing, planting or the celebration of the harvest season. Care must be taken of this carved history as images have been lost to development, earthquakes, tidal waves and to lava flows.
The Power of “HA”
In greeting, Hawaiian friends meet, touching forehead and nose, exchanging breath before giving a kiss on the cheek. The power and purity of the “ha,” the breath, makes the delicate melody that comes hauntingly through the ‘ohe hano ihu, the Hawaiian nose flute. The four holed instrument is made of dry bamboo, open at one end, closed at the other. The breath of the player creates a steady flow of air resulting in a one-octave melody that is often accompanied by the hollow sound of the ka‘eke‘eke, lengths of bamboo tapped in rhythm on the ground.
La‘Au Lapa ‘Au – Healing Plants
In ancient times Hawaiian healers understood which plants had the properties to cure a disease. They passed the wisdom of healing from one generation to another. The healer was called kahuna la‘au lapa‘au. They knew the methods of harvesting, preparing, extracting, formulating and administering the dosage of the medicine. Today practitioners are accepted, even welcomed, by physicians and research continues to give credence to their ancient wisdom.
Kalo, A Staple of Life
Hawaiian legends say that the kalo plant was the first-born child, created by the gods, Papa and Wakea, to nourish the people. Kalo, or taro, flourishes in the clear waters of a loi (pond). It is harvested and pounded to become poi, the staple of the Hawaiian diet. In ancient times Waikiki was a rich and fruitful mix of kalo fields and fish ponds, which is why the ali‘i, royalty, found it to be a perfect place to live and welcome voyagers from across the Pacific.
Hawaii is known for vibrant, bright colored appliqué quilts, created with a quilting method that is totally unique. In the late 1800’s, the missionary travelers taught their method of sewing tiny squares of cotton into bed-sized quilts. The Hawaiian women loved the concept of quilts but thought it foolish to cut large pieces of fabric into smaller pieces, simply to sew them back together. Working as you might cut folded paper into the shape of a snow flake, they created intricate designs to celebrate the tropical blossoms of the islands.
Vincent Vacations - Authorized Hawaii Traditions Travel Tips - Vacation Planner
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