Today, more of the research I did while writing Finding ‘Ohana! Before I researched Hawaiian funerals, I wasn’t sure if my book would include a funeral, even though one of the main characters dies. But, again, my subconscious knew better than me and as soon as I read about traditional Hawaiian funerals, I knew I had to include one.
Part of what drew me to it is how much of a party it is. I’ve been to “celebration of life” funerals, usually for someone who’d lived a long life. But the expert’s answer on the website above implies that all Hawaiian funerals are celebrations of life. They wear brightly colored aloha wear, and they all match. Often the mourners are even wearing the exact same pattern.
This seems to me like an extension of the ‘ohana beliefs. Because the family is so important, they will dress the same to show their unity while saying good-bye to a loved one.
Another aspect of the Hawaiian funeral that gives it a party feel is that it is usually outside. And when you’re in Hawai’i, it’s a little hard to be depressed when you’re outside. Everywhere you look there is life, bright and beautiful and all but impossible to ignore.
And it doesn’t have to just be outside. A Hawaiian funeral can be on boats, canoes, and even surfboards! With the ocean stretching out further than you can see and a beautiful green island as a backdrop. And, in Cinnamin’s case, a gorgeous sunset to top it all off.
(They go out on surfboards about seven and a half minutes in.)
Finally, the idea of being able to smell the reception’s barbecue during the funeral stuck with me too. To me, and maybe a lot of mainlanders, a barbecue means a lazy summer afternoon with no worries on anyone’s mind.
The whole event reads like a party, from the clothes to the location to the food. To be honest, I love it. I’ve always said that I want my will to say that there’s no black allowed at my funeral. People are sad enough when someone dies, they don’t need a bunch of black clothes everywhere to bring them down further.
The great thing when writing about another culture is being able to see the world someone else sees. A lot of the time it seems weird and foreign to the writer, but it’s completely normal to the characters from that culture. So, a character who was born and raised on the mainland, like Cinnamin, would be viewing Hawaiian culture with the same eyes I was when I was researching it. Only she is grieving when she sees it.
When you’re a mainlander grieving, the only thing you want to see when you look out the window is what you imagine London looking like during the Industrial Revolution. You certainly don’t want to be dragged out into paradise with people who are all dressed in bright, matching outfits. So rather than being interested and falling in love with a new way of seeing the world, Cinnamin is resentful that she can’t have anything familiar, even the way she is forced to say good-bye to someone she loves.