By Catherine Cluett Pactol
As with everything else over the last year, 2021 Ka Molokai Makahiki looked different. There were no traditional games played or roaring crowds to cheer on favorite competitors in hukihuki, kukini, uma or haka moa. Instead, a small group of dedicated and masked Hawaiians carried the banner of Lono on foot from one end of the island to the other, starting on Jan. 25.
“For the first time in 39 years, due to the pandemic, the Ka Molokai Makahiki Games were canceled… the Lono banner was carried for five days from east Molokai at Halawa to west Molokai at Hale o Lono in celebration of the closing of the season of peace,” wrote one of the event’s organizers, Walter Ritte, on social media.
Aloha the way, they stopped in each district to accept ho’okupu and visit each school. Passing cars beeped in support. ‘Ohana shouted, “Lonoikamakahiki!” from their porches. Cultural practitioners offered pule for rain and for health and blessings for the island in 2021.
Makahiki is a traditional Hawaiian season during October through January to observe peace and harvest in honor of the god Lono. Makahiki festivities continued uninterrupted from ancient times until 1919, according to Ka Molokai Makahiki’s website. Then in 1982, the Molokai community sought to revive the traditions and reestablished the annual celebration with games, food and music. The event now attracts competitors from around Hawaii, viewed as the ultimate champion’s tournament for Makahiki games, as well as the epicenter for cultural practices surrounding the season.
“Each year, we celebrate Makahiki season by taking an accounting of all the blessings we enjoyed for the year, celebrate our success and prosperity and petition for the needs of the people and island for the upcoming year,” states the website. “Over time, the way we have celebrated has changed but the core reasons for prayer, thanksgiving and celebration has remained the same.”
Though COVID-19 caused the games to be cancelled this year, the reason for the season was still observed, as kanaka shouldered Lono’s white banner and walked the island’s breadth last week. The march began at Halawa Valley and concluded at Hale O Lono, where ho’okupu from across Molokai were floated out in a wa’a as an offering to Lono.
“Mahalo nui to everyone that followed along on the Kaʻahele a Lono,” wrote Pulama Lima
on Ka Molokai Makahiki Facebook page. “A special mahalo to everyone that had a hand in making this such a special and uplifting ʻaha for our island community.”