Makahiki season is the time to drop the weapons and pick up the ukulele.
It all begins with the first sight of the seven sisters stars, the constellation Pleiades, known as the “makali`i." The season is a four-month period starting in November, the end of the growing season.
“When the sun sets the Makali’i will rise, the next new moon will be the beginning of the Makahiki season,” said Kumu Keahi, Hawaiian culture professor at Chaminade University.
Going back to the ancient Hawaiian history, the Makahiki season revolves around the god Lono, god of fertility, that left promising he would come back.
“There was an absolute forbiddance of war during the Makahiki season,” said Kumu Keahi, “ and it is about everything that we need to have that isn’t about war; it isn’t about work, it is about rest. It is the balance, the Yin and Yang.”
Although traditional cultural protocols of the makahiki season are not commonly practiced now days, Hawaiians still make it a part of their culture and remembrance. Today, it is more of a reminder of something that it, itself, is not.
Makahiki season was celebrated in three different phases.
The first phase was the spiritual cleansing and making “ho’okupu”, offerings, to the gods. There was absolutely no war
The second phase is the celebration. It was that time to relax and enjoy acitivities that made life worth living as: hula dancing, games (javelin, marksmanship, Hawaiian chess, ulumaika) canoe races, relays, surfing, chanting and feasting.
“The full extent of the ‘makahiki’ experience is eclectic and dense with various expectations, responsibilities, and activities,” said Kumu Keahi, “similar to all the trappings of large current day events, like the Olympics or Super Bowl.”
During the third phase, an entourage of the ruling chief tracked around the entire island and collected the taxes. At the close of the season, a symbolic canoe would be loaded with gifts for the god Lono and the ruling chief would sail out in reenacting Lono's departure and prophesied return. When he steps back on shore, an entourage of warriors throws spears at him, which he needs to block and prove his worthiness to continue ruling.
Today, the Aloha Festival occurs every year, and it is primarily a tourist attraction with its "court of pageantry" and barely little resemblance to the depth and breadth of the traditional practices of old. Hawaiians are still able to enjoy and reminisce their history.
Catelin Aiwohi, a junior at CUH, is deeply involved with her Hawaiian culture. She attended Kamehameha Schools Maui High School, and was able to participate in some of the Makahiki games.
“It was a chance to show our pride and to also put our components strength, strategies and wits to the test,” Aiwohi said. “I feel like we all have this innate competitive spirit in us and having a positive outlet for it is healthy.”
She believes Hawaiian knew that were a time and season for everything. There was a time for war, for hard work, but there was also time for peace to rest and enjoy.
“There was always balance,” Aiwohi said. “I think that if all of us still respected the Makahiki season and took time to stop, rejuvenate, reflect, give thanks, celebrate, and enjoy each others company, this world would be a much happier, healthier and positive place.”