Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Hawaiian Theme Color - Story about Hula Dance
By Masami Matsuoka
Hawaiian fabrics are used for Hawaiian shirts, Hawaiian dresses, Muumuus, Hula Paw Skirt, and other interior fabrics such as sheets and cushion covers. Bright and vivid colored leaves and flowers used for the design on the fabrics represent rich Hawaii's nature. Here is the fun fact that may help you to understand Hawaiian culture and enjoy finding the color palettes and combinations.
Did you know each Hawaiian island has its own colors that symbolize their island and plants represent the lands?
When people dance the Hula, they wear costumes and accessories that match the song and the land. In addition to hula costumes, the bright and colorful leaves and flowers on Hawaiian fabrics used in Hawaiian shirts, Hawaiian dresses, Muumuu, a traditional Hawaiian women's costume, and skirts made of a single piece of cloth called pow skirts depict and express the rich nature of Hawaii.
Today, I would like to share with you the information that will be fun to participate in Hawaiian festivals and watch Hawaiian parades or Hula dance that you can glimpse Hawaiian culture. Also let you a bit more enjoyable and fun to choose fabrics for dresses, shirts, or accessories, and color coordination.
＜Official Island Colors and Flowers of eight Hawaiian Islands＞
Hawaii consists of eight major islands and each island has its own island color.
These colors are based on the given flowers that are growing on each isle. The color themes are reflected in the Hula costumes and lei, and also the parade in some Hawaii festivals. You can check which color is the official color, as well as see the iconic flowers. If you know them, you will be able to enjoy Hawaii even more!
Island Nickname: The Big Island
Red – Ohia Lehua
Symbol of Pele; the goddess of volcanoes
The big island is famous for volcanoes and this is the place where the fire goddess Pele lived. Lehua is a bottlebrush-blossom that has a brilliant red color, like Volcano lava.
This flower is one of the first to begin growing on lava flows after an eruption. The Ohia tree produces red, yellow, orange, or white blossoms, but only the red blossom is the official flower of the Big Island.
Here is one of the interesting Hawaiian legends tied to this Ohia tree and Lehua blossom, and Pele; the volcano goddess. There was a man named Ohia and a woman named Lehua once upon a time. They loved each other. One day Pele met Ohia and she asked him to marry her. However, Ohia had already pledged to Lehua. Pele was furious about that and turned Ohia into a tree. Lehua got deep sorrow, so the gods felt pity for Lehua and thought it was an injustice. Thus they decide to turn Lehua into a flower, so they can be together forever. So, Hawaiians believe that if someone plucks the Lehua flower means separating those two lovers and it will rain on that day because the sky fills with their teas.
Island Nickname: The Gathering Place
Yellow – Ilima Flower
Symbol of Royalty
‘Ilima is one of the few native Hawaiian plants that are characterized by dime-sized yellow blossoms and gray-white heart-shaped leaves.
This flower is known as the flower for The Royal Lei since the flower was once only worn by Hawaiian high chiefs. Also according to the best known Hawaiian Lei Maker Marie McDonald, this five-petaled flower was one of Queen Emma’s, the wife of King Kamehameha IV, favorites, which explains how this flower got the reputation for royalty.
Island Nickname: The Garden Isle
Purple – Mokihana Berry
Kauai’s official designated flower is the Mokihana Berry that bears green berry. The color of the island is from light purple flowers. Mokihana tree grows only on Mount Waialeale; the second wettest place on earth. These berries were used as perfumes by native Hawaiians. Since Mokihana berries are very fragrant, they are often strung together with other fragrant Hawaiian leaves Maile to make lei.
Island Nickname: The Valley Isle
Pink – Lokelani Rose (Damask Rose or Pink Cottage Rose)
Loke means Rose and Lani is Heavenly in the Native Hawaiian language. So, Lokelani Rose is Heavenly Rose. These boldly pink roses are super-fragrant and bloom everywhere on the Valley Isle Maui.
Island Nickname: The Friendly Isle Green – Kukui Nut flower / White Kukui Blossom
Symbol of Peace, Protection, Guidance, and Enlightenment
The island’s color is Green, yet the Molokai’s flower is the White Kukui Blossom, which is a cute little white flower of the kukui tree. Kukui Tree was also designated as the official state tree of Hawaii in 1959. The word Kukui means enlightened in the Native Hawaiian language, and it is said to contain subtle energy in Hawaii. Thus, the shell of the nut was polished and used for lei that was worn by nobles and royalty as a symbol of being enlightened.
Kukui tree is not only important for spiritual usage. This tree also produces nuts that are very important to Hawaiian culture. Since these nuts contain high oil, the meat of the kukui nut was used for lamps and torches. Ancient Hawaiian people extracted the oil from the nut and burned it in a stone oil lamp called a Kukui Hele Po with a wick made of Kapa cloth, and skewered the nuts on coconut leaf, and then lit the nuts to use them as candles. This is why the kukui tree is also called the candlenut tree in Hawaii. Nowadays the oil is still used for Lomi Lomi massage and the skin.
Island Nickname: The Pineapple Isle
Orange – Kauna'oa Kahakai / Cuscuta Sandwichiana
The reason why Lanai is known as the "Pineapple Island" is because once it used to be the home to a big pineapple plantation that produced 75% of the world's pineapples!
Lanai’s island color is orange from the Kaunaoa plant which is a parasitic vine and the only member of the genus Cuscuta endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, and it grows in coastal areas with sandy soils. Kahakai means coast in Hawaiian, so Kaunaoa is also called Kaunaoa Kahakai. Kaunaoa is a medicinal plant, so other than just using it for Lanai island lei, in old Hawaii, it was pounded until soft and strained, then the juice was used as a medicine for sputum entanglement due to a cold. Also to thin blood for pregnant women or who had thick blood.
Island Nickname: The Forbidden Isle
White – White Pupu Shell / Niihau Shell
The distant island of Ni’ihau is the forbidden island where no one is allowed to visit without permission but only Hawaiians can visit.
Other islands’ colors are related to flowers, but Niihau’s color; white is a rebel in the scheme. It is named for the special white shells only found on the beaches of Hawaii’s private island of Niihau. The lei from this island is made of these Pupu shells and called Ni’ihau Shell Leis, not made of flowers. Pupu shells are glowing like pearls and one of the most precious and almost priceless shells in the world!
Island Nickname: The Target Isle
Gray or Silverish Gray – Hinahina / Polynesian Heliotrope
Kahoolawe is the smallest island of the eight major islands, located offshore of Maui, but Kahoʻolawe can be used only for native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, and subsistence purposes and no one can go there.
Hinahina is a plant endemic to Hawaii that has slightly grayish-colored succulent leaves and blooms fragrant white flowers. Hinahina in Hawaiian means gray. It grows in sandy coastal areas where it usually has intense sunlight, strong winds, and very little water in both rocky and sandy terrains. “Hinahina” is the most commonly used name, but there is no common name in English for this plant. It is also called Hinahina Ku Kahakai, Nohonohopuuone (on Niihau), and Pohinahina.
When you go to Hawaii, you often come across a plant that looks like fine gray hair caught in a tree. In fact, this plant is also called a Hinahina. And because of its hair-like appearance, people call them Pele's Hair. However, Pele's hair is a type of Spanish Moss and is different from Kahoolawe's iconic Hinahina, so don't be confused.
If you have a chance to join the King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade on Oahu, you can see beautiful floats clad in these official island colors and pau ladies, which is a procession of elegant and finely traditional Hawaiian dressed women atop horseback.