Category Archives: Culture customs and traditions

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 27:: Culture, customs and traditions: Aloha Friday

In many work places around the country, employers have adopted the idea of “Casual Friday” — one day in the week to dress more, well, casually than you do Monday through Thursday.

Did you know that this custom originated in Hawaii? Yep, right here in downtown Honolulu. It all started over 50 years ago, when Aloha Friday came into being.

After the war, around 1947, Honolulu businessmen decided to eschew coats and ties at work for the month between late October and late November, during which Aloha Week is observed. Instead, in the spirit of spreading the aloha, they wore aloha shirts — what people in other parts of the world call Hawaiian shirts.

After Aloha Week, they would go back to their traditional, mainland-style work garb, but over the next 10 to 15 years, the idea began to be floated that we should do more to celebrate and express our Hawaiian heritage, and make the whole aloha shirt-wearing deal more of a regular thing.

In 1962, state legislators adopted resolutions that would encourage the wearing of aloha shirts during the summer months, and by 1967 the state legislature and the Hawaii fashion industry had set it up so that every Friday, everyone had the green light to wear aloha attire — aloha shirts for the men, muumuus for the women — to work.

It’s come to the point where nowadays, for most working men, basically every day is Aloha Friday: a nice, crisply ironed aloha shirt, tucked into your dress pants, is pretty much the white collar working man’s uniform. (If you’re downtown and see a man in a dress shirt and tie, he’s probably a lawyer on his way to court. Or the defendant.)

Alas, women don’t take as much to muumuus as they used to, back in the day. I’m not sure why that is. For some reason their popularity among working women has fallen off dramatically; you hardly ever see ladies wearing them at work. On Friday or any other day. I used to have a closet-full of muumuus — my Friday wardrobe — but now I only have one or two, for special occasions.

The Coach, however, has lots and lots of aloha shirts:

And so do all his friends.

The guys always have something to wear on Aloha Fridays.

This is the twenty-seventh post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 20:: Culture, customs and traditions: Aunty and Uncle

A few months ago I was browsing the blogosphere and came upon a post that made me chuckle.

It was all about how children ought to address their elders — and I noticed in both the post and the comments that it mostly had to do how they address female elders — and whether you encourage your children to use Miss First Name, or if Mrs. Last Name is preferred.

The reason I was amused is because here in Hawaii, the answer is: neither. It’s always going to be Aunty or Uncle First Name, and often for brevity’s sake, simply Aunty or Uncle.

(And not to get off on a tangent, but it hasn’t escaped my notice that in most parts of the world, the diminutive of Aunt is spelled “Auntie.” We islanders just prefer to be different so we’re sticking with “Aunty” — deal with it.)

(Sorry, another tangent: The exception that proves the rule is: teachers. The protocol there is still going to be Mr. or Mrs. Last Name. Unless they’re your parents’ friends, or your friends’ parents, then we’re back to Aunty and Uncle. Or, in the case of my daughter, who had her father as one of her teachers in first grade: Mr. Dad.)

(I could probably do a whole post with just parenthetical thoughts. But that would get annoying, so I’ll stop now. You’re welcome.)

Where was I? Right, Aunty and Uncle. We call virtually everyone who’s even a little bit older than us that, whether they’re known to us or total strangers. Same ethnic background or socioeconomic status, or different. And it comes in handy when you can’t remember someone’s name: “Oh hi, Aunty, how are you?” See what a nice save that was?

The interesting thing is, though, that using Aunty and Uncle might seem like an intimate or familiar way to address people, but in fact the way it feels in island culture is that it’s the height of respect, every bit as much as Mr. or Mrs. Last Name, or even Sir or Ma’am.

So go ahead, call me Aunty Plum. I’ve earned it.

This is the twentieth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 13:: Culture, customs and traditions: Baby Luau

A few weekends ago, The Coach and I attended one of my favorite island-style events: a baby luau.

A dearly loved Hawaiian cultural tradition, a baby luau is a child’s first birthday party, but generally a much bigger deal than these types of events tend to be on the mainland. Imagine an event more on the scale of a wedding, with hundreds of guests and all the embellishments that go along with a momentous occasion.

The way a baby’s first birthday got to be such a major thing here has to do with the high rates of infant mortality in past centuries. For a child to survive his first year of life was by no means a given, hence it was deeply valued, and therefore an occasion for families to come together in gratitude and celebration.

Nowadays it’s still expected that you’ll do a big party for your baby’s first birthday, and that your family and friends will all chip in and help make it happen. The one we went to recently was at a beachside club, and included Hawaiian music; activities like an inflatable bounce house, face painting, and a photo booth; thematic decorations and favors, and of course, a delicious meal.

It’s called a luau because traditional Hawaiian foods are served: kalua pig, lomilomi salmon, chicken long rice, poi, haupia. If you like Hawaiian food — as I do — you’ll be in heaven. It’s no time to stick to your diet!

After everyone’s eaten, the baby’s family will say a few word of thanks to the guests, we’ll all sing Happy Birthday, and have some birthday cake. The festivities may well continue for several hours, even if the guest of honor needs to go down for a nap.

Young cousins and friends help serve the food

Guests gather for a yummy lunch

The birthday boy and his parents extend their aloha and thanks to their families

This is the thirteenth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 6:: Culture, customs and traditions: Leis

You are probably familiar with the old chestnut: “Aloha means hello, goodbye and I love you.” Here in Hawaii, leis* are our tangible expressions of Aloha.

In other words, if you want to say hello, goodbye, and/or I love you, giving a lei does the trick every time.

Here are some other occasions and situations in which it is customary, if not obligatory, to give or receive lei:

  • Graduations. Don’t even think about showing up to a graduation ceremony (or grad party) without a lei for the graduate. It doesn’t have to be a flower lei; leis fashioned out of ribbons, money, candy, and various other little gift-type things are common at graduations.

    Our boy’s high school graduation

  • Birthdays. When invited to a birthday party, unless it’s for a baby or child, the celebrant always gets a lei. In fact, if you happen to see someone wearing a lei or leis at work or at a restaurant or wherever; your first question will probably be: “Is it your birthday?”

The Coach and me at my 50th birthday party

  • Anniversaries. If it’s just the two of you celebrating, the husband might not always get a lei from his wife, but he should get one for her. If you’re attending an anniversary party, bring a lei for each of them.

Our 25th anniversary. Our leis are almost exactly the same as those we wore on our wedding day.

  • Sports events. For example, you bring leis to the championship game, or the last game of the season. Also you give leis to paddlers at the end of their races, and so forth. The rule of thumb is that, as for the above events, by giving your athlete or coach a lei, you’re saying “Congratulations!”

One of The Coach’s volleyball teams, after winning the state championship

  • Proms. This tradition has changed a bit over the years. Back in my day, the girl gave her date a lei, and he gave her one. I don’t remember that we worried too much about color scheme and whatnot; we just ordered a nice appropriate lei and then exchanged them when the boy came to pick the girl up. Nowadays it seems like the boy gives the girl a corsage or bouquet instead of a lei. But the girl still gives the boy a lei.

Our boy took two dates to his senior prom. Don’t ask.

  • Not only when you want to say Congratulations, but also when you want to say Thank You. Often when someone has helped me with a project or problem, I can let them know — and others can see — how much I appreciated their help by giving a lei.

My cousin, on the right, helped me plan and put on our girl’s grad party, so I made sure she had a lei!

  • Other milestone events. Like baptisms. Because again, it’s a congratulatory thing. Any occasion which is considered congratulatory, it’s nice to present a lei.

Our girl and her brother, after her baptism

This list is by no means exhaustive — I haven’t even mentioned things like bridal and baby showers, musical and dramatic performances, and even funerals. So you can imagine there are quite a few times a year when we have to stop by the lei shop and pick up a lei for a special someone!

* Hawaiian language note: The Hawaiian language has no “S,” and so it’s really incorrect for me to add one on to the end of a Hawaiian word like lei. But, I’m going to anyway, as a courtesy to those readers who would be confused otherwise. To my `olelo Hawai`i peeps: ho`omanawanui, this time!

This is the sixth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.