Seasonal Splendor: Immersing in the Merrie Monarch Festival Celebrations

Hawaii Things to do Vacation Rentals

Hawaiian women dancing hula outside

Hawaii, the land of vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality, is home to an event that epitomizes the essence of its rich heritage – the Merrie Monarch Festival. Held annually in Hilo, Hawaii, this festival is a celebration of Hawaiian arts, particularly the ancient dance form of Hula, and it is now underway until 04/06! The festival enchants visitors with its dazzling displays of traditional dance, music, and crafts. Participating in festival events and watching the amazing Hula performances is probably the best way to experience Hawaiian culture.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the magic of Hula and the Merrie Monarch Festival, its significance, the highlights of the 2024 events, and the best ways to immerse oneself in this cultural extravaganza.

Why Hula is the Best Way to Experience Hawaiian Culture

Hula transcends mere entertainment; it serves as a gateway to the soul of Hawaiian culture, offering profound insights into the values, beliefs, and traditions of the islands. Here’s why Hula is the best way to experience Hawaiian culture:

Cultural Expression: Through Hula, the stories of Hawaii’s past and present are brought to life, preserving ancestral knowledge and transmitting it to future generations. The gestures, chants, and movements of Hula convey a deep reverence for the land, the ocean, and the gods, reflecting the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Spirit of Aloha: At its core, Hula embodies the spirit of aloha – a philosophy of love, compassion, and respect for others. As dancers sway gracefully to the rhythm of the music, they exude a sense of joy, harmony, and unity characteristic of Hawaiian hospitality. By participating in Hula, one learns not only the steps of the dance but also the values of aloha that underpin Hawaiian society.

Connection to Nature: Hula is intimately tied to the natural world, with many dances inspired by the elements, landscapes, and wildlife of Hawaii. From the gentle sway of palm trees to the powerful crash of ocean waves, hula movements mirror the rhythms and movements of the environment, fostering a profound connection between dancers and their surroundings.

Cultural Identity: For the people of Hawaii, Hula is more than just a cultural practice – it is a source of identity, pride, and resilience. Despite centuries of colonization and cultural suppression, Hula has endured as a symbol of Hawaiian resilience, serving as a beacon of cultural revival and empowerment for indigenous communities.

Celebration of Diversity: Hula is a living art form that continues to evolve and adapt over time, incorporating influences from diverse cultural traditions and contemporary expressions. Through Hula, participants celebrate the rich diversity of Hawaii’s multicultural heritage, embracing the spirit of inclusivity and creativity that defines the islands’ cultural landscape.

The Significance of the Merrie Monarch Festival

The Merrie Monarch Festival holds profound cultural significance for the people of Hawaii. Named in honor of King David Kalakaua, often referred to as the “Merrie Monarch” due to his love for music and dance, the festival aims to preserve and perpetuate traditional Hawaiian arts. It serves as a platform for showcasing the talents of hula practitioners, musicians, artisans, and cultural experts while fostering a sense of pride and connection to Hawaiian heritage among locals and visitors alike.

At its core, the festival celebrates the art of Hula – a dance form deeply rooted in Hawaiian history and spirituality. Hula is more than just a series of movements; it is a storytelling medium that communicates the legends, myths, and values of the Hawaiian people. Through graceful gestures, rhythmic footwork, and expressive chants, hula dancers convey the beauty and essence of Hawaiian culture, forging a profound connection with the land and its people.

Highlights of the 2024 Merrie Monarch Festival

The 2024 Merrie Monarch Festival delivers an array of captivating performances, cultural exhibitions, and immersive experiences. Here are some of the highlights that attendees enjoy:

Ho’ike Night took place on Wednesday night inside the Edith Kanaka’ole Multi-Purpose Stadium in Hilo. The stadium was filled with a tightly packed crowd, standing shoulder to shoulder, which frequently erupted into resounding cheers and enthusiastic applause as dancers took the stage and honorees were recognized during the highly anticipated weeklong showcase of Hula and traditional dances from across the Pacific region.

The Ho’ike event this year welcomed everyone at no cost. The organizers of the festival opted not to impose an entrance fee. Instead, they allowed attendees to contribute to the recovery efforts in Lāhainā, Maui, following the tragic wildfire that struck in August 2023.

Donations were graciously accepted upon entry, with the proceeds aimed at assisting the residents of the West Maui community who suffered devastating losses, including the loss of homes, loved ones, or both, in the fire.

Hula Kahiko Competition: The heart of the festival lies in the hula competitions, where halau (hula schools) from across the Hawaiian Islands and beyond come together to showcase their mastery of the ancient hula kahiko (traditional Hula). Dressed in elaborate costumes adorned with natural materials such as leaves, shells, and feathers, dancers evoke the spirit of Hawaii’s ancestors through powerful chants and movements. The Hula kahiko competition begins at 6 p.m. Friday, and if you can watch it, definitely do it.

Hula’ Auana Competition: In addition to the traditional hula kahiko, the festival also features the hula’ auana (modern Hula) competition, which incorporates contemporary music and choreography while still honoring the cultural traditions of Hula. This segment showcases the evolution of Hula as a living art form, reflecting the influences of various musical genres and cultural expressions. This contest is set for 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by the announcements of awards.

Craft Fairs and Cultural Workshops: Beyond the performances, the festival offers opportunities to engage with Hawaiian culture through craft fairs, cultural workshops, and demonstrations. Visitors can learn traditional Hawaiian arts such as lei making, kapa (bark cloth) printing, and lauhala (pandanus leaf) weaving, gaining insight into the craftsmanship and symbolism embedded in these age-old practices.

Miss Aloha Hula Pageant: A highlight of the festival was the Miss Aloha Hula pageant on 04/04/24, where solo hula dancers competed for the prestigious title. Participants are judged not only on their technical skill and proficiency but also on their ability to embody the spirit and essence of Hula, captivating audiences with their grace, expression, and aloha spirit.

Ho’olaule’a Celebration: The festival culminates in a grand ho’olaule’a (celebration) featuring live music, traditional food vendors, and community performances. Here, attendees can immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere, savoring the flavors of Hawaiian cuisine, mingling with locals, and dancing under the stars to the rhythmic beats of island music.

Merrie Monarch Royal Parade: One of the festival’s most enjoyable and family-friendly activities, the parade commences at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, and concludes at Pauahi Street, proceeding through downtown Hilo along Kilauea Avenue, Keawe Street, Waiānuenue Avenue, and Kamehameha Avenue.

The following streets will be inaccessible to traffic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 6 due to the parade: Kamehameha Avenue from Waiānuenue Avenue to Suisan Bridge, Pauahi Street, Kīlauea Avenue between Pauahi and Ponahawai Street, Keawe Street, and Waiānuenue.

Where can you watch the internationally acclaimed hula competition if you didn’t get tickets?

Hawai’i News Now—KFVE, the festival’s official broadcaster, carries the events live on-air and online each night and special coverage during newscasts, streaming platforms, and social media. Click here for more. You can also follow the festival on Facebook and Instagram or visit the official website for additional information.

The Merrie Monarch Festival stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Hawaiian culture, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty, grace, and aloha spirit of the islands. As we witness the 2024 festivities unfold, let us honor the traditions of Hula and the wisdom of Hawaii’s ancestors, forging connections that transcend time and place. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned festival-goer, the Merrie Monarch Festival offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of Hawaii, leaving unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

Mahalo nui loa for joining us on this journey through the seasonal splendor of the Merrie Monarch Festival. May your hearts be filled with the warmth of aloha, and may the spirit of Hula continue to inspire and uplift us all.


To top