American missionary Lowell Smith
wrote: “This day has been observed by U.S. missionaries
and people of Honolulu as a day of Thanksgiving and praise
to Almighty God. Something new for this nation. The people
turned out pretty well, and they dined in small…and large
Before the missionaries, when the Hawaiians celebrated Thanksgiving,
it wasn’t just celebrated for one day: it was celebrated
for four consecutive months. This was known as the Makahiki.
The whole season was the Hawaiian Thanksgiving, and it was
held in honor of Lono, the god of fertility, music, and peace
Beginning in October, the festival was divided into two periods.
During the first period, people stopped work and began their
journey to the compound of the king where, at the nearest heiau,
or temple, they made offerings to him (their taxes) via the god
The taxes (‘auhau) for the king—collected by the
Konohiki, or tax collector, and paid in pigs, taro, and mats,
since there was no money or medium of exchange—were brought
together in one place and offered on the altars of Lono. These
gifts from the people were then divided up by the king among
his followers (the ali‘i, the island’s aristocracy)
and the priests.
The second period, which occurred in November, was a time for
celebration. The Hawaiians enjoyed hula dancing, boxing, surfing,
sliding on sleds, canoe races, relays, and swimming (thefreedictionary.com).
They also feasted on taro, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, bananas,
vegetables, chicken, fish, limu, pig, dog, and sugar cane (starbulletin.com)
The first official Thanksgiving celebration in Hawai‘i
took place on Dec. 31, 1849 by order of King Kamehameha III.
At the end of the festival, the king ventured offshore in a canoe.
When he returned, men with spears would rush him. It was believed
that unless the king was sacred enough to be superior to death,
he no longer was worthy of representing Lono (thefreediction-ary.com).
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day
a national holiday.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill that
established the fourth Thursday of November would be declared
Day. However, every few years November has five Thursdays. It
wasn’t until 1956 that all states began celebrating Thanksgiving
on the fourth Thursday of November (thanksgiving.org).
In the beginning, Thanksgiving was known as a day of prayer
and fasting. More than likely, the first thanksgiving feast
outside. The colonists didn’t have a building large enough
to accommodate all the people who came.
Neither did the Hawaiians, nor the missionaries, Like the
pilgrims before them, the Hawaiians celebrated by not only
and other outdoor activities, but they also paid respect to
the gods by offering gifts and prayer.
These traditions continue today as families gather to celebrate
not only with feasts but also with expressions of appreciation
for the bounty of life, gratitude to a higher power for providing
it, and affection for each other.