nvs. A favorite or pet; to treat as a favorite (children were often treated as favorites; they might be carried on the grandparent’s shoulders, and songs were composed for them); favoritism. (This word may have the loaʻa-type of construction; see Gram. 4.4.) No kēia punahele o ʻAu-kele i kō lākou makuakāne, because their father made a favorite of ʻAu-kele. hoʻo.puna.hele. To treat as a favorite, make a favorite, indulge. Hōʻike ka makua i kona hoʻopunahele i kāna wahine (Kep. 165), the parent showed how he treated his wife as a great favorite. (PCP (f,s)ele.)

He punahele nō ʻoe – You are a favorite. Remember that beautiful song? I can hear Robert Uluwehi Cazimero singing it in my ear.

In our Hawaiian culture the punahele, or favorite child, was the eldest, reared by the grandparents (depending on whether the child was a boy, he would be raised by the paternal grandparents, a girl by the maternal grandparents). Whereas the other children in the ʻohana (this would include cousins and siblings) were all given chores to do, the punahele was not allowed to do any “hard labor”. Everything was done for the punahele child. In fact, the infant’s body was molded to foster attractive features, such as nice round eyes (by massaging the outer corners), a well-shaped nose (by massaging the nose), and a nice round ʻelemu (backside) for boys, rather than a flat one. This child was frequently carried around by the grandparents and chants were composed in his/her honor. It was as if this child was the aliʻi of the ʻohana. Though this may seem like a hunky dory position to be in as a child, being the punahele held with its title much kuleana, responsibility, in terms of maintaining the family history and genealogy. The punahele child, in adulthood, was usually the patriarch of the family.

I cannot say whether this tradition is still in practice today. The eldest frequently does have more kuleana than the younger pōkiʻi, or siblings, but whether they are treated as a punahele back in the day, I am not sure. Many times I find that it is perhaps the youngest that gets punahele treatment.

What do you think?

ʻO wai kāu punahele? – who is your favorite?

Copyright: 2016 – Liana Iaea Honda. All rights reserved. All versions of “He Momi e Lei ai”, in its entirety, past and present, is the property of L. K. I. Honda. Reproduction and use of any kind other than the sharing of this website is prohibited. Alteration to the original content in any form is prohibited in every and any instance, and use in any other variant is prohibited without written consent of the author. Adress inquiries to: hemomi [at] gmail.com. Definitions and wise sayings are from: Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert, 1986. ʻŌlelo Noʻeau – Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui, 1983.


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