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A Day for Queen Emma
Anela Akana
The sweet fragrance of flowers filled the Cathedral last Tuesday as the St. Andrew’s Schools community celebrated the 185th birthday of its founder, Queen Emma Kaleleonālani. With health and safety a school priority, this event – like all others this year – followed a modified schedule that spread the event throughout the day, allowing for small groups of students to take turns participating in the protocols.  
 
Traditionally, there would be an all-school chapel, followed by the presentation of hoʻokupu or gift. Instead, the only attendees were the Class of 2021 and a handful of faculty and staff who sat socially distanced in the pews. The rest of the students at The Priory and The Prep attended the service virtually through a Facebook live stream.
 
Kumu Hula Kaʻilihiwa Vaughan was at the forefront of the day’s events, which started with the arrangement of flowers and lei that adorned the Queen Emma portrait and offering table. Taking great care to put each in its proper place, she laid pieces of fabric over the table, along with a koa bowl and lauhala basket. With her expert eye, she arranged lei of white and purple crown flower, tī, yellow ginger, and bougainvillea around the table and over the bowl and basket giving the bountiful display variance in height.
 
The portrait of Queen Emma stood at top of the stairs to the Chancel, along with the Queen’s attendants from the senior class: Kara Ho, Hevani Malohi, Kuʻulei Rudolph, and Hannah Okuda. Standing in the back behind plexiglass barriers were the senior members of the Chamber Choir who led the small congregation in song.
 
The sermon given by The Right Reverend Robert Fitzpatrick honored Queen Emma by speaking about her life, her humanitarian work, and some of the hardships she overcame – some of which was the discrimination and sexism she faced during her candidacy in the royal election.
 
“Strong women were not always respected,” Bishop Bob explained. “Even when things went wrong, even when things went bad for her, she still cared for her people and for the nation. So we honor the queen for her strength, her failures, and her successes. She worked for the children and especially the young women of Hawaiʻi.”
 
The Presentation of Hoʻokupu
 
After the chapel service concluded, the presentation of hoʻokupu commenced. Hoʻokupu is an offering given as an expression of love, gratitude, and respect and it is a tradition that representatives from each grade level present gifts of flowers and lei to the bust of Queen Emma in James and Abigail Park. Because of inclement weather, it instead took place in the Cathedral and the gifts were given to Queen Emma’s portrait and offering table. Vaughan remained at the portrait throughout the ceremony assisting each of the classes, ensuring that the proper protocols were followed. For her, it was an opportunity for students to also learn about kuleana or responsibility.
 
“When it was time for the hoʻokupu, they carried a kuleana to follow through with the protocols properly,” Kumu Hiwa said. “Once they realized that there were protocols and that they were in charge of that, they were willing and ready to do so. In those moments, it was beautiful to witness the learning and transformation taking place – to see students quiet their spirit, open their eyes, and take it all in.”
 
After school leadership presented their gifts, the Class of 2021 lined up outside on the stairs at the front of the Cathedral to oli. Their class representative then walked down the center aisle in a bowing stance, with lei in hand until they reached the attendant who presented the lei to Queen Emma.
 
Throughout the rest of the day, each class from The Prep and The Priory Lower School and Upper School came to give their offering during their designated time slot to maintain social distance between campus cohorts. The day concluded with the Royal Emma Dancers performing a hula to the song, “Hāʻupu.” The dancers, along with Vaughan, then placed the lei that adorned Queen Emma’s portrait onto her bust in the park.
 
Mauna ‘Ala
 
The traditional end of the birthday celebration is traveling to Mauna ‘Ala, the Royal Mausoleum in Nuʻuanu where upperclassmen, faculty, staff, and other community organizations attend a special service to commemorate the life and legacy of Queen Emma. The senior class also has the privilege of visiting the royal crypt. While this portion of the day did not take place, as a representative of the school, Vaughan made a visit to Mauna ‘Ala the following day to pay respect and to ensure all of Queen Emma’s hoʻokupu made it to her tomb.
 
“I am grateful we can still connect to Mauna ‘Ala – even amidst COVID – to complete the process of protocol. The next day we took all the lei to Mauna ‘Ala and went through the protocol to offer it to Queen Emma and her tomb and also to the other aliʻi,” she explained. “I personally love being there. Mauna ‘Ala is still and forever will be special.”
 
For more photos, visit the Queen Emma Birthday photo gallery.
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