What is Hawaiian Culture?

Daniel Gallagher

March 23, 2023


Hawaiian culture is roote in a deep relationship with the land and ocean. Cultural practices like chant, music, and food express this reverence for life. Ancient Hawaiians cultivated sophisticated land-use arrangements that allowed them to tap their rich terrestrial and marine resources. Their pie-slice-shaped divisions, called ahupuaa, were overseen by local chiefs and headmen to ensure that all residents had access to these essential natural resources.

The Aloha Spirit

The Aloha Spirit is a very important part of Hawaiian culture. It is the philosophy and way of life that the people live in Hawaii daily.

The spirit of Aloha is something that all of us can learn from the Hawaiians, and they practice it daily in their homes, schools, and workplaces. They use it to express their love and affection for others, and they do a fantastic job of keeping this spirit alive and well throughout the islands.

One of the most notable aspects of the Aloha Spirit is the custom of giving and receiving a lei. These beautiful flowers symbolize friendship and positive energy between the two people who receive them.

Lei-giving is also a common part of tourism and hospitality in Hawaii. They are a great way to show appreciation for those who make your trip possible and your love for the Hawaiian culture.

The Arts

The arts are an important part of Hawai’i culture and are vital to the Island’s economy. According to a report by the state’s Creative Industries Division, the arts, and creative industries contribute to the state’s economic well-being through job creation, tourism, and revenue generation.

Art before the Europeans’ arrival included wood carvings, petroglyphs, Kapa, and bark cloth (called tapa in other Pacific regions). These styles of artwork have been preserved through the efforts of experts, and a few craftsmen still produce traditional Hawaiian art for tourists or to help preserve the island’s heritage.

Artists from abroad have visited the Islands to capture the beauty of their surroundings in paintings. These include American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who visited in 1939 and spent nine weeks drawing flowers and landscapes on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, completing at least 20 works.

The Religion

Hawaiian religion was a central element of the islands’ culture. The Hawaiian pantheon of gods and goddesses was the dominant belief system for chief and commoner alike.

One of the most important concepts was mana, spiritual energy infused in people and things. It was believed that chiefs had more mana than others, while a small group called kauw (untouchables) had no mana and were forced to live apart from other Native Hawaiians.

Another major element of the Hawaiian religious tradition was kahuna. They were a social hierarchy class that served the King and courtiers and assisted the Maka’ainana (Common People).

The Hawaiian religion was polytheistic and encompassed around 40,000 traditional deities and spirits. It also has a mythological tradition that focuses on stories of Nature and life.

The Food

Food is a major part of Hawaiian culture. It is a way for Hawaiians to express their Aloha Spirit and a staple of everyday life in Hawaii.

The food of Hawaii is a blend of Polynesian, Asian, and European cultures. This combination of cultures is a huge part of Hawaii’s uniqueness.

Traditional Hawaiian dishes combine fresh vegetables, rice, and meat. Some of the most popular traditional foods include poi, a pounded taro paste; laulau, chicken or pork wrapped in ti leaves and steamed; kalua pig, pulled pork; and lomi salmon, a fresh tomato, onion, and salmon salad.

Another Hawaiian comfort food is shave ice, a sweet treat made of shaved ice with flavore syrup and coconut milk to make it creamy. Another favorite is the Luau stew, a tomato-based dish with beef brisket and tripe, which is the stomach lining of cows.