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Makahiki, a Celebration of the Harvest

Community Contributed

By Glenn I. Teves, UH CTAHR Molokai Extension Agent

In ancient Hawaii, the rising of the constellation Makali’i, also known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, signaled the start of the Makahiki season and the season of the harvest. Southerly storms signaled the arrival of Lono i ka Makahiki, a special season to give thanks for the bounty of food, and another year without famine. The celebration of abundance was probably the most important aspect of Makahiki, while also giving thanks to the God Lono, the god of fertility, agriculture, rain, music, and peace for blessing our fertile, fat lands or ‘aina momona. 

This was a time when wars ceased, the bountiful harvest was celebrated, and new fields were planted in anticipation of spring rains. With this reprieve from war, crops could be planted in peace with no threat of war. The Makahiki season usually covered a period of four lunar months from October or November to February or March. This season of gratitude was also a time of celebration, with games of skill, strategy and strength to keep mind, body, and spirit pono or in correctness, and to prepare the community for the arrival of spring when skirmishes and wars returned. 

Games included boxing or mokomoko, running or kukini, spear throwing or o’o ihe, tug of war or huki huki, sled racing or papa holua, checkers or konane, chicken fighting or haka moa, stone disc rolling or ulu maika, arm wrestling or uma, surfing or papa he’e nalu, cliff diving or lelekawai, and many, many others. 

It also a time when residents of each land district paid tribute or taxes deposited at the ahupua’a or pig altar located on ancient boundaries of land districts, and collected by the konohiki or district managers for the ali’i or rulers. This could include the bounties of the district, including special products created by inhabitants of that specific ahupua’a. Some ancient South American cultures also celebrated the harvest season with the rising of this same constellation, including the Quechua people of Equador.

This year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Molokai Makahiki. From its humble beginnings in 1982 it has blossomed into one of the most important cultural events on Molokai. We recognize all who have nurtured this event to what it is today honoring the spirit of Molokai’s ohana and its history, especially its opio or youth representing their island districts and their schools each year for four generations! After a brief hiatus, the Molokai Makahiki returns, and the spirit and celebration of the Makahiki continues.


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