Kalākaua's Silver Jubilee

Photo of hula dancers at 1886 JubileePhoto of crowds at Iolani Palace during the Jubilee

King David Kalākaua commemorated his 50th birthday with a two-week celebration of Hawaiian culture on the ʻIolani Palace grounds.  Known as the "Silver Jubilee", the 1886 festivities featured hoʻopaʻa (chanters) and ʻolapa (dancers) performing in public after years of suppression by Christian missionaries and previous rulers.

A parade through downtown Honolulu went to the palace, where throngs of well-wishers lined up to give their gifts and respects to Kalākaua.  One of the gifts was a book collection of 48 chants, "Nā Mele ʻAimoku", chants in honor of the king.  Until today, these mele provide a rich source of traditional chants and insights into the poetic expressions of the Hawaiian language.

Kalākaua was called the "Merrie Monarch" for his flambouyant and fun-loving ways.  During his reign he encouraged the transcription of Hawaiian oral traditions and supported the revival of hula.  He also oversaw the construction of ʻIolani Palce, which is now a symbol of the Monarchy Period when Hawaiʻi was independent.  He is given much credit for the perpetuation of our culture and language.

Every year, the Merrie Monarch Festival continues what the king started by hosting a week-long festival of music, crafts, art, demonstrations and hula competitions.  During festival week, the spirit of the Silver Jubilee is indeed alive in Hilo, Hawaiʻi.