A Day to Honor a King
Kamehameha Day was established by royal decree on December 22, 1871 by King Kamehameha V as a national holiday. Kamehameha Day was created to honor the memory of Kamehameha, the king’s great grandfather, who united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810 and became Hawai‘i’s first king. The first celebration occurred on June 11, 1872, during this early period celebrations occurred on each island and were grand and festive consisting of carnivals, fairs, and foot, horse, velocipede (bike), and canoe races. However, following the overthrow of Queen Lili‘uokalani and the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1893, Kamehameha Day continued to be recognized as a holiday, but the celebratory aspect (understandably) fell to the wayside.
After Hawai‘i became a territory of the United States in 1898, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole restored the Royal Order of Kamehameha I (Royal Order) in 1903. The Royal Order subsequently reestablished the celebration of Kamehameha Day on June 11, 1904. The Kamehameha Day celebrations in Hawai‘i were conducted exclusively by the Royal Order from 1904 until 1912. In 1912 respective chapters of the Royal Order began to collaborate with island communities and local governments to present Kamehameha Day celebrations.