Kamehameha Day was first proclaimed by Kamehameha V as a day to honor his grandfather, Kamehameha I.
I was curious about why June 11 was selected as the day to celebrate King Kamehameha I; I could not see the reason for the date.
Sometimes celebrations are based on the individual’s birthday … It is not clear what year, much less what day Kamehameha was born, so it probably didn’t relate to that. (However, many say the year was 1758.)
Sometimes, the day people died is the memorial/celebratory day … Kamehameha died on May 8, 1819, so it is not related to that.
Maybe the date relates to the day he became the ruler over all the islands … Negotiations between Kamehameha and Kaumuali‘i, in 1810, occurred around April (based on Isaac Davis’ death,) so it probably doesn’t relate to that.
I asked my friend Kepā Maly if he had guidance and he referred me to a translation of SM Kamakau, which states:
“The celebration of Kamehameha Day on June 11, came about in the following way.”
“On December 11, 1871, the birthday of Kamehameha V who was at that time ruling king, a public celebration was held with horse-riding and other sports.”
“It was agreed to make this celebration an annual event, but because of the uncertain weather in December to change the date to June.”
“Kamehameha V died soon after, and the holiday remained as a “Day in Commemoration of Kamehameha I,” (La Ho‘o-mana‘o o Kamehameha I.)”
So, while linked to Kamehameha V’s birth date, it boils down to having a celebration when the weather is better (6-months from King Kamehameha V’s birthday.)
The 1896 legislature declared it a national holiday.
Almost from its first observance this day was celebrated chiefly by horse races in Kapi‘olani Park, but the races eventually gave way to today’s parades of floats and pāʻū riders.
In 1939, Hawaii Revised Statute 8-5 under the Territorial Legislature of Hawai‘i created the King Kamehameha Celebration Commission.
In 1978 the legislature renamed this holiday King Kamehameha I Day.
On February 14, 1883, the Kamehameha statue was unveiled at Aliʻiōlani Hale during the coronation ceremonies for King Kalākaua. The customary draping of the Kamehameha Statue with lei dates back to 1901.