What does kupu mean in Hawaii

Hawaiian customs: Luau, Lei & Co. explained

Of course, Hawaii has been the 50th and youngest state in the United States since 1959, and it is undeniable that the archipelago has embraced much of American culture and way of life. Nonetheless, a multitude of original customs and a strong local identity have been preserved in the Pacific archipelago. For all those interested in Hawaii, here is a brief overview of some of the outstanding and most beautiful customs and cultural peculiarities of Hawaii:


Who doesn't know the name of this dance? World-famous, but understood in detail by a few, this traditional Hawaiian dance with its changeful history shows many parallels to similar Polynesian dances, but is characterized by a number of peculiarities due to the significant distance between Hawaii and other islands. The hula may be one of the most meaningful dances in the world, as it is above all a medium for telling stories with the body, beyond a rhythmic movement of the steps to the beat of the music, which makes it a very special type of body writing. And so it has actually not only been performed in festive and cultic contexts for countless generations, but actually represents a movable store of knowledge of Hawaiian culture.

Keiki hula dancer Hawaii

If you visit Hawaii today, you will in all likelihood see many performances that have very little to do with what has long characterized the dance at its core: with the arrival of missionaries and western culture on the archipelago at the beginning of the 19th century In the 20th century, dance underwent drastic changes.

Today it is mainly performed to music on typical western instruments and the dress code is no longer particularly strict. However, there has been a clear trend towards the old hula, the so-called hula, since the 1970s kahiko to revive and promote. So if you are traveling in Hawaii with your eyes open, you should not miss a modern hula performance or the traditional kahiko.


Luau is the name for every big festival in Hawaii, where hula performances, local specialties such as poi, lomi salmon, Kalua pork and Haupia as well as a cheerful celebration are of central importance. Of particular importance during the luau is the preparation of the imu, the underground earth oven in which much of the food is prepared during the festival.

Luau buffet

The specific design of the Luaus can differ significantly from situation to situation. They only have in common that they always take place in the open air and in large tents and usually near the water. They owe their creation to a decree by King Kamehameha II, who in 1819 abolished the traditional separation of the sexes and the discrimination against women for social events by decree: From this point on, the men and women of Hawaii were allowed to eat together for the first time. And so sensuality and the euphoria about being together are still at the center of the Lulau.


The lei is also one of the most famous trademarks of Hawaii and is the local name for the necklaces made from petals (such as orchid or jasmine flowers), seeds, feathers, ferns and other natural materials on the island. The lei is an old honorary jewelry that was previously only given to high dignitaries at festive events. Today the award of the leis is handled much more laxly and so it became the custom in the second half of the 20th century to give it to visitors with a light kiss on the cheek when they arrive. If you are really interested in leis, you should take part in a workshop in which these extremely pretty flower accessories are made and learn something about the 8 traditional manufacturing techniques for different leis and the special meaning of the colors in the lei.


Surfing may appear a little surprising in this list for those who are not particularly keen on water sports in Hawaii. In fact, surfing, as we know it today as a Californian invention, is nothing more than the sporting embodiment of an old Hawaiian, perhaps also all Polynesian ritual, which is already documented for Hawaii in 1779 and is an essential part of the local culture of the islands.

Occasionally with the old name in Hawaii even today hee nalu referred to, surfing was long considered a high art form, which was also closely linked to the mystical, natural belief of the Hawaiians. A successful surf game was seen as a way of taming and at the same time a blessing by the gods. The island's most famous surfer is Duke Kahanamoku, who revolutionized the surfing world from 1900. You can emulate him in numerous surf courses on the island, or just watch the professionals.


Perhaps the most beautiful of all the customs of this warm and loving culture is the hooponopono, an ancient ritual of reconciliation and forgiveness. Even today, the Hooponopono, which means something like 'to put in order', is a very spiritual undertaking in which the parties to the dispute come together according to clearly defined rules to pray, speak and be silent together, and also as a form of Meditation is understood. Difficult to describe, easy going on your next Hawaii vacation attend a Hooponopono ceremony under direction. It may be amazing how helpful it can be!

»The Aloha Spirit: Ukulele, Ukeke & One hano ihu

The sensuality of Hawaiian culture may not be as evident at any other moment as when listening to traditional music. The opportunity to do so is actually available around the clock, because in Hawaii music is made for literally every imaginable occasion. The ukelele, which found its way to Hawaii in the 19th century and quickly became the favorite instrument of the last Hawaiian kings Liliuokalani, is of outstanding importance.

On the other hand, it is more traditional Ukeke, a bow instrumentthat is played with the mouth is often used as a clock. The one hano ihu, a nose flute made of bamboo, is in direct contact with the island's spirituality. Although it is mainly played in private, it has recently enjoyed increasing popularity as an accompaniment instrument for singing and hula. It is said of her that she is the direct form of expression of Aloha, since she = with the face alo, With Ha, the divine breath.

Image: Leis CC BY 2.0 by Janine / Wikipedia

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