Help Create a 20-Foot Lei to Honor King Kamehameha III

The special garland will be offered at a lei draping ceremony on March 17.
Making A Lei
Photo: Getty Images

Reigning from 1825 to 1854—nearly three decades—King Kamehameha III was the longest governing monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The king was only 10 years old when he succeeded the throne and reigned until his death in 1854.  

To honor his birthday on March 17, the Royal Hawaiian Center welcomes all kamaʻāina (locals and long-time residents) and malihini (visitors) to help sew a 20-foot lei. From 10 a.m-12 p.m. on March 16, guests can learn to string lei in the Royal Grove while also discovering an interesting period in Hawaiʻi’s history. 

“It’ll be exciting to see all the locals and visitors coming together to help us honor Kamehameha III,” said Monte McComber, Royal Hawaiian Center’s cultural director. “Royal Hawaiian Center is the perfect location for guests to partake in this cultural tradition as it’s situated around the historical gathering place known as Helumoa, where King Kamehameha III lived during the 1830s.”  

The following day, the lei will be draped over the 12-foot statue of King Kamehameha III at Thomas Square in Honolulu during a special ceremony on March 17. The event begins at 9 a.m. and will be led by the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts (MOCA), which promotes the value of arts and culture throughout communities in the City and County of Honolulu.  

King Kamehameha III’s statue stands tall at Thomas Square, a park named after British Rear Admiral Richard Thomas. In 1843, Thomas ended the British Royal Navy’s illegal occupation of Hawaiʻi, helping to restore the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. At a ceremony announcing the end of the British occupation, King Kamehameha III spoke the words that are now the state motto: “Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina I ka pono,” which roughly translates to “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” 

In addition to speaking the words that are now the state motto, the king left a remarkable legacy in Hawaiʻi. During his nearly 30-year rule, King Kamehameha III is well-known for transforming Hawaiʻi’s government from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. He introduced the first written laws to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi as well as judicial and executive branches of government.  

In 1950, the king also established the Honolulu Fire Department, the only department in the U.S. to be created under a ruling monarch. In later years, King Kālakaua, the last king of the Hawaiian Kingdom, served in an engine company at the Honolulu Fire Department.  

It was also under the King Kamehameha III that the first iteration of the Royal Hawaiian Band was assembled. It was then known as the King’s Band, which is now a fixture at parades and ceremonies in Honolulu. The band has also performed in concert halls across the U.S. and traveled abroad. Fittingly, the Royal Hawaiian Band will provide prelude music to the lei ceremony on March 17. 

Royal Hawaiian Center, 2201 Kālakaua Avenue,
Categories: Arts + Culture, Oʻahu