In the Hawaiian calendar, a year is divided into two seasons: Kau, the warmer dry season which lasts for eight lunar months and Hoʻoilo, the cooler wet season which lasts for four lunar months. The arrival of Hoʻoilo season is marked by the first appearance of the Makali'i or Pleiades, a blue cluster of stars in the eastern horizon after the sunset. This usually happens on Nov, 17th of every year. After confirming a thin crest of the Hilo moon, the first phase of a new moon, slits into the night sky, it is official.
During this time of year, we are gifted with more rain. Instead of warm-colored foliage covering the hills and mountains, in Hawaii, we welcome new growth sprouting out from the soil, turning all the islands ever greener. Streams become more alive, and ponds invite more Koloa (Hawaiian ducks) with abundant water. Ancient Hawaiians planted taro, banana, and sweet potato in this season, being grateful for Lono, the god of harvest, rain and fecundity.
The Makahiki ceremony and festival also kicks off at this time. Makahiki means the beginning of a new year for the Hawaiian people. To welcome a new year with humility and gratitude, ancient Hawaiians used this four-month period to pay tribute to their deities, reflect on their harvest and given resources, reconnect with their people, and rest. Each district paid taxes and offerings to their aliʻi or the chief, which were then presented to Lono. During this time, all the activities associated with Ku, the god of war, farming and fishing, were halted. Instead, everyone participated in sports, fun games and festive activities. There were matches like boxing and wrestling, competitions such as foot race, javelin, bowling, surfing, canoe racing and swimming. They even had lava sled courses just like today’s bobsled course, geared with sleek sleds made of native Hawaiian woods. And not to mention many chants, storytelling and hula.
The procession carries akua loa (an image of Lono), signaling Lono’s arrival. Lono is embodied in tall crossed-wood rods with flouncing white kapa banners, pala ferns, feathered lei, and stuffed kaupu (albatross) pelts.
This important tradition of ancient Hawaii is still observed here in the islands. As we approach to the busiest time of the year, let’s take time to observe and reconnect with what makes up our days and lives. You’ll find surprising abundance in yourself and your surroundings. Can’t feel it? Just look at the night sky and look for the Pleiades constellation. They will always find you and navigate you through wherever you may be.
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