When we think about the lives of ancient Hawaiians, we are often reminded that they frequently engaged in war. Ali‘i battled ali‘i for territory on their island, and ali‘i left their islands to take over the islands of others. The “war season” could last months, and affected not only the warriors but their families and their communities as well. Henry Opukaha‘ia, the young man who traveled to New England and inspired the missionaries to come to Hawai‘i, fled the islands as a result of the warring around him that killed his parents and infant brother.
From that perspective, maybe 2017 hasn’t been that bad, although it has been a difficult year for many of us to navigate. At the break of every dawn we wake to find ourselves under siege by the sights and sounds of conflict as so many of us capitulate our sense of well-being to the battlefields of social media platforms and the daily news that invades the brain with every bad thing that happened around the world in the last 24 hours. Add to this the stress on our senses of just getting through the workday that can leave us mentally exhausted and spiritually diminished by mid-afternoon. For many of us, no matter our economic status, we feel that we are operating in a war zone.
The ancient Hawaiians knew that they needed a break from the season of war, and so they celebrated the season of the Makahiki. The Makahiki season was a four month period from October/November through February/March. The Makahiki was a time of peace and plenty, relaxation and games, and for harvest. It was also a time to honor the god Lono, one of the four major gods recognized not only here in Hawaiʻi, but throughout the Pacific. His domain includes fertility, agriculture, and peace. During Makahiki, the qualities of Lono were celebrated by feasting, competing in sport and games, dancing hula and telling stories. War between the aliʻi was forbidden. Some of the games that were and still are enjoyed during Makahiki include heihei kūkini (racing), mokomoko (boxing), hākōkō (a wrestling style similar to sumo), pūhenehene (a skilled-game of deception), and kōnane (a board game most resembling chess).
So the message I urge with this column is that it’s time for us to follow the ways of our ancestors to take a break! Let’s gift ourselves some extended Makahiki time. We don’t need to wait for Christmas to gift ourselves with peace and tranquility. One of the ironies of the “holiday season” is that there are holiday season demands like gift-giving expectations and heightened family-related obligations that actually increase the stress of deadlines and managing one’s holiday finances as people incur new debt while still paying off last year’s holiday loans. Go figah.
Instead, do yourself a favor. Slow down. Talk to your family and friends about the need to get off the train for a while and schedule some Makahiki time celebrating the blessing of close friends and family. Get off social media. Take a fast from the news. Go out and play some games with your family and friends.
Let us all work on healing our spirits and refreshing our minds. Let’s hit the re-set button and move into 2018 with peace and aloha.
May I wish you and yours Happy Holidays!