“Aloha Week” was conceived in 1946 as a cultural revival of Hawaiian music, dance, and history—a re-imagined makahiki, the ancient Hawaiian festival held in late-October or early November. In the early years, Aloha Week included a parade and the Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa (celebration, aka block party) on Kalākaua Avenue. Dozens of volunteer-run events on neighboring islands were added over the years. In 1991, Aloha Week became “Aloha Festivals”—a statewide celebration of Hawaiian culture.
Today, Aloha Festivals continues to foster the Aloha Spirit by showcasing the unique cultural traditions of Hawaiʻi. There are three signature events in September on the island of O‘ahu: presentation of a Hawaiian Heritage Royal Court, the Waikīkī Hoʻolauleʻa, and the Floral Parade through Waikīkī. These signature Oʻahu events are described in detail below.
In addition, neighboring islands organize independent events September-October. Find information and links to neighbor island events below under the section ʻOhana Events.
Brief history of Makahiki
When the star cluster Makali‘i* appeared on the eastern horizon at sunset, it marked the beginning of ho’oilo (winter season) and the start of a new year—Makahiki.
The Hawaiian Makahiki New Year celebration lasted about four months. It was kapu (forbidden) to engage in war and certain tasks such as deep-sea fishing and farming. This was a practical decision due to heavy rains and high winds experienced during ho’oilo. During the time of Kamehameha I, maka‘āinana (commoners) in each ahupuaʻa (land districts on each island) gave ho‘okupu (offerings) during makahiki as a tax. Ho‘okupu were re-distributed among the aliʻi (chiefs) and kahuna (priests). These offerings included pua‘a (pigs), kalo (taro), ‘uala (sweet potatoes), hulu (feathers), moena (woven mats), and kapa (aka tapa or Hawaiian bark cloth).
Several Hawaiian gods were honored during makahiki, especially Lono-i-ka-makahiki (aka Lono) who is associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, music, and peace. Following the distribution of ho‘okupu, the festivities of makahiki commenced and included dramatic pageants, games of strength and strategy, hula (dancing), food of course, and offerings to the gods. A ritual closing ceremony signified the end of makahiki, lifting of kapu, and return to normal farming and fishing activities. The tradition of makahiki faded after the arrival of Europeans and suppression of Hawaiian cultural practices.
*The star cluster Makali‘i appears in both the northern and southern hemispheres and therefore has many names. It is also known as Matariki (Māori), Cmaamc (Lakota), collca’ (Quechua), Mutsuraboshi and Subaru (Japanese), and perhaps most commonly as Pleiades (Greek), Messier 45 or M45, or Seven Sisters. There are still more names in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and many, many more cultures and languages throughout history. The names of the nine brightest stars from Greek mythology are (the “seven sisters”) Asterope, Electra, Merope, Maia, Celaeno, Taygeta, and Alcyone – and their parents, Pleione and Atlas.
O’ahu: Aloha Festivals Signature Events
Aloha Festivals is the largest Hawaiian cultural celebration in the U.S. Aloha Festivals has become a statewide celebration of Hawaiian culture with major events on the island of O‘ahu and independent ʻOhana events on neighboring islands. Thousands of volunteers work together each year to stage the events, which are attended by thousands. Aloha Festivals foster the Aloha Spirit through the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture and the celebration of the diverse customs and traditions of Hawai‘i.” These community-supported events are made possible through private donations, community sponsors, merchandise sales, and appropriated funds from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. Donations are tax deductible and welcomed. Besides attending events, here are ways to participate:
- Participate at Aloha Festivals events through membership, sponsorship, or in a signature event: royal court member or appearance, a parade unit, or ho‘olaule‘a vendor.
- Aloha Festivals shop. Purchase Aloha Festivals ribbons and exclusive merchandise online or at Aloha Festivals signature events.
- Donate to Aloha Festivals to keep its signature events free and open to the public.
Hawaiian Heritage Royal Court
After the selection of the Royal Court, the Aloha Festivals opening ceremony kicks off the celebration across the Hawaiian Islands. In a stately ceremony with treasured cultural protocols that honors Hawaiʻi aliʻi (ruling chiefs), the Aloha Festivals Royal Court dresses in regalia once worn only by aliʻi of the highest rank. As representatives of Hawaiʻi’s past, the Royal Court ensures the festival is rooted in the most cherished traditions of ancient Hawaiʻi. The Opening Ceremony also features hula and musical performances.
Aloha Festivals largest block party, the Waikīkī Ho‘olaule‘a is a beachfront street festival like no other! Kalākaua Avenue will be lined with booths showcasing Hawaiʻi cuisine, crafts, and culture. Taste the best of local flavors from around the island in one place. Peruse artisan-made crafts. Enjoy multiple entertainment stages featuring top local artists, award-winning hālau hula, and more.
More info: Aloha Festivals Waikīkī Ho‘olaule‘a
Aloha Festivals officially ends with a colorful procession of Hawaiian culture through Waikīkī with the Annual Floral Parade. Participants from marching bands to hālau hula to civic leaders display the unique aloha spirit that unites Hawai‘i’s community. Along with a procession of floats covered with Hawaiian flowers, hula halau (schools), marching bands, and other parade units, a highlight of the Floral Parade is the procession of Pāʻū* riders.
*pāʻū: the typical article of clothing for women in ancient Hawaiʻi was a pāʻū (skirt) consisting of a rectangular piece of kapa (aka tapa or bark cloth) wrapped around the waist, extending either from beneath the bust (for aliʻi or royalty) or the waistline (for maka‘āinana or commoners), to the knee.
Read more about Pāʻū riders below.
Pāʻū riders are uniquely Hawaiian. By the middle of the 19th century, horses were common in the islands and Hawaiians became expert equestrians. Since Hawaiian wahine (women) rode horses astride rather than sidesaddle, she gathered the skirt of their now western-style dress and tucked it around her legs. The dress was then covered by fabric to protect the dress from muddy and dusty roads. The rider’s pāʻū was made of a single piece of fabric, about 12 yards in length, wrapped around the rider to flow over the stirrups and to the ground. The pāʻū uses no buttons or other fasteners, it is held in place by twisting and tucking the fabric with kukui nuts.
Each pāʻū unit can includes a queen or princess, one or more female attendant riders, and one or more (usually male) escorts. A queen’s unit will have move riders and attendants than a princess. The queen or princess is the only member of the unit who can weave her horse on the route. Following her, the attendant(s) ride straight forward. A page carries the unit’s banner. Finally, there are the pooper scoopers whose job it is to, uh, escort the horses.
There is a pāʻū unit for each island, representing each their flower and color:
- Hawaiʻi Island – Flower ʻōhiʻa lehua (endemic Metrosideros polymorpha) and the color red
- Kahoolawe. ʻāhina.hina aka ʻāhina (endemic Heliotropium anomalum var. argenteum) and grey/blue
- Kauaʻi. mokihana (endemic Pelea anisata) and purple
- Lānaʻi. kaunaona (endemic Cuscuta sandwichiana) and orange
- Maui. lokelani (introduced Rosa damascena, registered name “Archduke Charles” aka Damask rose and Maui rose) and pink
- Molokaʻi. kukui (canoe plant Aleurites moluccana) and green
- Niʻihau. kāmoa ke‘oke‘o (white niʻihau pūpū or shell) and brown/white
- Oʻahu. Ilima (indigenous Sida fallax) and yellow
Neighbor Islands: ‘Ohana Events
Listed below are community-sponsored events across the Hawaiian Islands to celebrate the spirit of Aloha, including live music performances, ho‘olaule‘a, and cultural activities.
Maui Festivals of Aloha
October 13, 2023
- 5pm-8pm. Aloha Friday at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului. Enjoy an evening of Hawaiian cultural exhibits, hands-on activities, Hawaiian music and hula!
October 21, 2023 at Hāna Saturday at Hana Ballpark
- 11am. Parade with the Hāna Royal Court, floats, Grand Marshall, Marching Band, Zenshin Daiko (Taiko), follow by a magic show.
- 10am – 3pm. Ho‘olaule‘a featuring ‘ono local eats and Hand made in Hawaii artists and vendors.
- 5pm – 9pm. Sports Night at the Park: Tennis, volleyball, corn hole, and other game .
October 22, 2023 at Hana Bay
- 7am to 12pm. Keiki/Wahine Shoreline Fishing Tournament.
- noon- 5pm. ‘Ohana Beach Day & games.
October 23, 2023
- 5pm – 9pm. Sports Night at Hāna Ballpark.
October 24, 2023 in Hana
- 3pm – 5pm. Traditional Lei Making Class at Hāna-Maui Resort. Reserve your seat by calling Kane Kanakaole at (808) 264-1094
- 5pm – 9pm. Karaoke Night at Hāna Bay. Sign Up by calling or texting Poerava at (808) 670-1200.
October 25, 2023 in Hana
- 10am – 11pm. Floral & Lei Contest at Hāna-Maui Resort
- 11am – 2pm. Kupuna Luncheon – at Hāna-Maui Resort
- 2:30pm – 4:30pm. Ulana Niu – Coconut Weaving Workshop at Hāna Farms
- 6pm – 9pm Teen Night at Hāna Bay. An Evening of DJ Music, Fun Interactive Games, Aloha Attire Contest and More.
October 26, 2023 in Hana
- Hāna Bay Hāna Arts’ Annual Talent Show.
Friday, October 27, 2023 in Hana
- 3pm – 6pm. Pō Hawai‘i: Hawaiiana NightUlu, Pohole & Poke Contest at Friday Hāna Farmers Market.
- 6pm – 10pm. Aloha Attire Contests at Hāna Bay
October 28, 2023 in Hana
- 2pm – 4pm. Cross Country Golf at Holani Hāna
- 5pm – 10pm. Ho’ike Night – at Hāna Bay
October 27-29, 2923 Concerts in Wailea
- October 27. Ke Kani Hone O Wailea. A concert series at the Shops at Wailea featuring John Cruz. shopsatwailea.com
- October 28. Hula is the Heartbeat. A hula concert at the Four Seasons Maui.
- October 29. Sounds of the Sea. A free sunset concert at the Four Seasons Maui.
November 11, 2023. Richard Ho‘opi‘i Leo Ki‘eki‘e Falsetto Contest at the Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua.
Lāna‘i Festivals of Aloha
- November 4, 2023. Parade and Ho‘olaule‘a at Dole Park. Enjoy hands on activities, local eats, crafters and live entertainment.
Moloka‘i Festivals of Aloha
- November 14, 2023. “Mahalo Moloka‘i” – at Hiro’s ‘Ohana Grill. A Hawaiian music concert.
- November 15, 2023. “Mele Moloka‘i” – Hawaiian music for the community.