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Father's Day in Hawaii

...and did you also know that ancient Polynesian societies were usually male dominated? For example, in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Hawaiian Village you’ll see the men’s eating house, where only men were allowed. Old Samoa had a variation of this: the male chiefs and other men ate first, by themselves. The women and children ate afterwards, separately from the men.

Of course, many of these old Polynesian customs are now just part of history, and most island families eat together as often as modern life makes such simple pleasures possible.

 Here are a couple of other historical factoids related to Father’s Day: Most ancient Polynesians only had one name, although they might have changed it from time to time — and children usually called their father (and mother) by that name, rather than some variation of “mom” or “dad.”


Hawaiian village at the Polynesian Cultural Center




Often times a respected kupuna or elder was asked to name a child, and as with families around the world, these names often had family or historical ties. Sometimes people would use one name as a child, then adopt another name as an adult, according to their desires or achievements; and some men eventually inherited a chiefly or family title. This all worked well in old Polynesia, but when Europeans seriously entered the picture 200-plus years ago, they introduced the concept of given and surnames (family names).

Island men and their families began to make new naming choices, some of which might now seem rather strange to people with more traditional given and surname customs. For example, some men simply used their traditional single name as both their given and surnames: Even today it’s not unusual to find a Samoan or Tongan guy who has the same first and last names.

Other men adopted the traditional single name of their fathers as their new surnames. So, a man named Ikaika (“strong”) whose dad was named Kaleo (“the voice”) suddenly became Ikaika Kaleo, and subsequent generations kept Kaleo as a surname. Others adopted the names of their respective chiefs as family names.

 Passing on such family history is part of what makes Father’s Day in Hawaii, and the rest of Polynesia, another great holiday. We hope you enjoyed yours.

Mana and father from HA: Breath of Life