'Tis the season when cherry trees bloom brightly throughout Hawai‘i, casting a warm pink hue over streets and neighborhoods. The delicate flowers thrive in Wahiawa on O‘ahu and in Waimea on the Big Island, where the weather's just cold enough to inspire an annual bloom.
The cherry season not only marks the beginning of spring, but it honors the Japanese culture as well. In Japan, special rituals take place – including a viewing party, sake drinking and picnics. These traditions continue here in the islands through events hosted by local community groups, as well as a huge festival on the Big Island.
The Big Island's Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival began more than two decades ago in honor of the cherry tree; however, it has since grown to include an array of multi-cultural elements. From mochi pounding to Hawaiian quilt making, the festival attracts hundreds every year. Most of the events take place on Church Row Park, where the historic trees are in full bloom during the January to February months.
Hawai‘i's cherry blossom trees have a long-standing history in the islands. The trees in Wahiawa can be traced to a single tree brought from Okinawa during the mid-1950s. From that tree grew hundreds more. The civic association that strives to preserve their beauty claims to have the largest collection in the state. Waimea's grove, on the other hand, is just as old but comes from Taiwan.
I remember seeing cherry blossoms for the first time when I visited Washington D.C. as a kid. It was absolutely stunning; from one end of the main city street to the other, you could see a full canopy of pinks and whites. I also remember it being really cold, so I could never stand outside long enough to really admire their beauty. It'd have to be from inside of a building or a bus.
But in Hawai‘i, the weather's always nice, which means there's plenty of reason to be outside enjoying one of nature's most precious gems.
Photo Courtesy: Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival
January 14th, 2013