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A Celebration for All
“Aloha!” boomed an unfamiliar voice while fierce orange flames pierced into the air. As the opening boat appeared from around the bend, I noticed women with vivid green skirts flowing around as if they were wild daisies dancing around in the wind. The front of the raft had a piece of chestnut wood on it, along with “Hawaii” inscribed on it. At this moment, I had realized that the celebration of being a Polynesian had begun and I was more than ready to begin the journey to experience first hand a different culture. The Polynesian celebration made me realize that people of any ethnicity and background can come together to experience and enjoy other cultures with a plethora of people.
The first part of the Polynesian pride festivities includes the introduction of the Polynesians from the Polynesian Triangle, a region of the Pacific Ocean with three islands as the triangle points. Rather than having a dull entrance, each of the three islands came out on boats illuminating radiant colors. Since the celebration was held in Hawaii, the glistening ruby red Hawaiian boat went first. I have never really experienced a party about being a Polynesian, so I had no clue what to expect. Soon enough, a colossal sized man with an abundance of tattoos started chanting and dancing in only a miniscule leaf skirt wrapped around his waist. He started moving his hips and dancing to the song he was singing while my eyes bulged out like a pufferfish because I have never seen a grown man do that in anywhere in America. As the float drifted along in front of me, I saw that, along with the Hawaiian man doing a cultural, rambunctious dance, there were also some women doing a tranquil, traditional hula dance. Seeing the people perform their cultural dances made me realize how unique American culture is because we don’t really have a meaningful dance like the Polynesians do, we just have dances like the “Wobble”. The next Polynesian group to come out where those native to Easter Island. Since Easter Island is known for their Moai statues, the massive gray figures with a variety of countenance, they put a small-scale replica of one on their boat. A different broad, bronze man stood before the statue and started chanting to it in his native language while the women aboard the raft began to perform a traditional dance. The most memorable boat in the entire parade was New Zealand’s because it was embellished with indigenous, vivid flowers. I can clearly remember seeing flowers of sunshine gold, soft baby pink, and precious periwinkle outlining the raft. Eye presentation made the watercraft pop out among the rest because everybody else’s float was only decorated with some green leaves and statues of different Polynesian gods that each main island recognizes. Besides the Polynesian Triangle islanders being present at the celebration, other islanders of the Pacific showed up to the luau before the final party showcase.
I have never been to a luau prior to our family vacation to Hawaii, and I only expected to see a pale, pink pig on some leaves with a huge, juicy red apple hanging out of its mouth and somebody softly playing the ukulele. Oh no, I completely thought wrong. Before my family and I even walked into the outdoor area, I could hear drums beating loudly and a voice echoing off the palm trees. As we took our seats, the announcer introduced the people on stage as natives from Fiji. Most of the Fijians were in typical tropical clothes, but the only color they had on was teal. Apparently, the teal color represented their crystal clear waters back home and the white flowers in the girls’ hair represented the white sandy beaches. The Fijians were going to show us a special dance until the roasting pig in the pit of rocks, coals, and leaves were fully cooked. A part of their performance was doing a dance with fire using torches and even their hands! It amazed me to see somebody dance with fire because it’s a rare talent and skill to have in the United States. Once dinner was served and the buffet started, a different native group took the stage- the people of Tahiti. While guests ate dinner, the Tahitian women, who were decorated out in cantaloupe colored dresses, did a very unique dance with the men. This dance was so beautifully choreographed that I could tell that the story was about a young couple fighting for their love because neither one of the parents approved of it. Before I knew it, I had finished my hog roast and poi, a paste from the root of the taro plant, just in time to see the last Pacific Islanders. The final native tropics from the Pacific Islands to be at the celebration were those drenched in shamrock green, the people of Tonga. Although I thought it would get boring watching yet another dance, I was proved wrong as the lively people moved their hips faster than Elvis, and then sat in a circle. During this time, I thought they were going to tell ancient stories from their land; however, they ended up pulling sticks out of their clothes and began tapping them on the floor. Suddenly, sticks were flying through the crisp air and some of them even caught on fire! I’m guessing that the fire was supposed to be on the sticks since nobody on stage freaked out, but the audience did. To help keep the audience entertained for the final event, members of the audience were called on stage to help out with the final event, and I was one of those “lucky” winners.
Approaching the stage with a wide variety of others was giving me anxiety. I wasn’t the only one called up though, my brother was too, along with about forty others. All kinds of people of all shapes and sizes were on the stage. I remember seeing Asians talking Chinese to Americans to try and figure out what was going on. Of course, nobody knew if that is for sure what they were asking since we couldn’t speak their language. However, I did understand the British couple talking to me, although I didn’t pay much attention to them because their accent intrigued me so much. The guy with the microphone told us that we were going to learn how to do a facile hula and then perform it for the all the guests. As anybody could imagine, everybody on stage was nervous with the beating lights shining upon our pale faces. While I looked into the audience, I could see that all types of people from all over the world were there. I can even recall seeing Indian women dressed in vibrant saris of neon orange and pink, laughing at the unique dance we were attempting to perform. Altogether, I felt as though I was able to soak up not only Polynesian culture at the festivities, but was also able to see and even interact with people from all over the world, which is funny because I was on such a tiny island.
Hawaii is the most remote location on Earth; ironically people of various races and cultures were present at the miniscule celebration of Polynesians. The beginning event was filled with the natives in the Polynesian Triangle, and then branched out to other tropical islands from all over the globe. Natives from the triangle showed the guests how even though they have a very similar culture, each island is different and unique. Like the Polynesians, the Pacific Islanders came dressed in their own tropical wear, and colors, to show off their magnificent culture. Although I got to take place in a celebration of a different culture, my favorite part of the night was when “mainlanders” were able to come up on the stage and learn a Hawaiian dance to join in the celebration. Many people today, especially in America, don’t realize how special every culture. Being up on stage with people from all over the globe, dancing in ways I didn’t think my body could move, made me realize that learning about somebodys’ culture is way different than experiencing it. You learn about other cultures in textbooks, but the guests, including myself, at the celebration lived the culture. How do I know that I wasn’t the only person living in the moment? Everybody who was there had that beaming glow to them when they watched the natives dance and chant. It’s celebrations like these that show that people of all backgrounds can come together and enjoy another’s spirit and company while learning about a different one. You don’t have to go to the Olympics to take pride in your nationality and learn about other cultures, all you need is exceptional spirits, a sense of adventure, and readiness to live it.