World Hula Week is an annual celebration that starts on Easter Sunday and lasts through the week; this year it will run from April 9 to 15. The holiday, also known as the Merrie Monarch Festival, honors the legacy of King David Kalākaua, who was king of the Hawaiian Nation between 1874 and 1891. It is a fun-filled week of parades, Hawaiian art fairs, and performances as well as a three-night hula competition. The festival aims to perpetuate Hawaiian culture and traditions. Read on to learn more about this holiday.
History of World Hula Week (Merrie Monarch festival)
The origin of the Merrie Monarch Festival can be traced back to 1963 when Hawai’i Island was experiencing economic struggles as a result of the devastation caused by a recent tsunami, as well as the decline of the sugar plantations along the Hamakua Coast. Helene Hale, the County of Hawai’i Chairwoman, decided to give the island an economic boost through tourism. She sent her administrative assistant and promoter of activities to Maui to explore the island’s Lahaina Whaling Spree and see what lessons could be learned. The duo returned inspired.
The following year, the Festival was organized, consisting of events such as a relay race, a barbershop quartet, a King Kalākaua beard lookalike contest, a recreation of King Kalākaua’s coronation, and a Holoku Ball. Between 1968 and 1970, support and interest for the festival declined but was eventually revived by the Executive Director of the Festival, Dottie Thompson, who introduced a Miss Hula competition in 1971. In 1976, the competition expanded to include men, which increased interest in the Festival.
This period of reawakening interest in the Festival also coincided with the Hawaiian Renaissance, a period when cultural pride began to manifest through the practice of Hawaiian culture, language, arts, crafts, music, and voyaging. Steadily, the Festival grew in leaps and bounds, so much so that it expanded to a full week. Furthermore, the crowd was so large that it outgrew its location. The solution came in 1981 with the Festival getting televised for the first time so that elders who couldn’t attend physically would still be able to enjoy the hula. In 2013, the Festival celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Though the original motivation of the festival’s organizers was economic gain, it has come to mean so much more and is now a perpetuation of Hawaiian culture.
World Hula Week (Merrie Monarch festival) timeline
The Merrie Monarch Festival is celebrated for the first time.
The first Miss Hula Competition is convened.
The Hula Competition expands to include men.
The Merrie Monarch Festival marks 50 years since it was first celebrated.
World Hula Week (Merrie Monarch festival) FAQs
How much money is spent on the Merrie Monarch Festival?
Visitors spend about USD six million on the Festival every year.
How much does a ticket to Merrie Monarch Festival cost?
A ticket to the Merrie Monarch Festival costs five dollars only.
What is the population of Hawaii?
Hawaii is home to approximately 1.4 million people.
World Hula Week (Merrie Monarch festival) Activities
Learn the hula
Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate like a Hawaiian? Learn how to dance the hula, a beautiful Polynesian dance characterized by rhythmic, undulating movements and symbolic gestures.
Study King Kalākaua
King Kalākaua, who is known as the ‘Merrie Monarch,’ was king of the Hawaiian Nation. He was a colorful and flamboyant king, in many interesting ways. Learn all you can about him and share your knowledge with others.
Has it ever been your dream to visit the lush island of Hawaii? World Hula Week is the perfect time to visit!
5 Interesting Facts About King Kalākaua
His birth date is given as November 16, 1836.
He was elected king of the Hawaiian Nation on February 12, 1874.
When Hawaiian beliefs were being threatened by imposed Western culture, Kalākaua lived by the motto “Ho’oulu Lahui,” meaning “Increase the Nation” and advocated for a renewed sense of pride in all things Hawaiian.
During his reign, Iolani Palace was constructed and the book, “Legends and Myths of Hawaii” was compiled.
He died on January 20, 1891.
Why We Love World Hula Week (Merrie Monarch festival)
It is a celebration of culture
The Merrie Monarch Festival is a testament to the beautiful culture of the Hawaiians. This is a chance for them to celebrate and appreciate their lovely heritage.
It promotes tourism
The Merrie Monarch Festival is a source of tourism and all its attendant benefits. Every year, tickets to the Festival sell out on the very same day that they are released. This is enormously beneficial to Hawaii's economy.
It is a legacy
The Festival celebrates the legacy of King Kalākaua, the Merrie Monarch himself. It is celebrated in the spirit of cultural pride that King Kalākaua advocated for.
World Hula Week (Merrie Monarch festival) dates