Different Ohana's at the Polynesian cultural Center in Hawaii visiting the recreated Polynesian villages.

Ohana Meaning and Why It’s Important

We’ve all heard the saying, “Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind,” but what does it mean to have an “Ohana”?

The Hawaiian term ohana has gained popularity in recent years thanks to Disney’s movie Lilo & Stitch, but its meaning goes much deeper. Ohana is a concept rooted in ancient Hawaiian culture that means family—but not just your immediate family member. It can refer to anyone who plays a vital role in your life.

In this blog post, we will explore the meaning and importance of ohana.

The Deep Meaning of Ohana

To truly appreciate the profound meaning of ohana, we must first delve into its origins. As previously mentioned, ohana translates to “family” in English. However, it encompasses a much broader and more profound significance.

In Hawaiian culture, ohana represents not just immediate relatives but also extended family, close friends, and even the community at large. It reflects a sense of interconnectedness, emphasizing that we are all part of a larger family unit.

Beyond Blood Ties:

One of the most beautiful aspects of ohana is that it extends beyond traditional notions of blood relationships. While biological family holds immense importance, ohana teaches us that family can be chosen, built, and nurtured through love, care, and mutual support. 

It recognizes that the bonds we form with people who uplift and inspire us can be just as powerful and meaningful as those tied by genetics. Ohana encourages us to embrace diversity, creating a space where everyone feels valued, accepted, and cherished.

A Spirit of Unity:

At the core of ohana lies a deep sense of unity. It emphasizes the idea that we are stronger together and our collective well-being is intertwined. In times of joy, celebration, and success, ohana encourages us to share our happiness with those around us. 

Similarly, during challenging moments, it fosters a spirit of solidarity, reminding us to lean on each other for support and find solace in the comfort of our loved ones. 

Ohana calls us to cultivate an environment where kindness, compassion, and understanding flourish, fostering a harmonious and nurturing atmosphere for everyone involved.

Belonging and Support:

Ohana envelops us in a profound sense of belonging. It reassures us that we are not alone on our journey through life, as we are surrounded by a network of people who love and care for us unconditionally.

The concept of ohana emphasizes the importance of creating a safe space where individuals can express themselves authentically without fear of judgment. It reminds us that we have a support system that will lift us up when we stumble, celebrate our successes, and provide a comforting embrace during times of vulnerability.

How to Show the Spirit of Ohana

From fostering open communication to celebrating traditions, let’s discover the keys to creating a strong sense of family bonds:

Cultivate Open Communication:

Encourage an environment where family members feel comfortable expressing themselves. Practice active listening and empathy to understand and support one another. By prioritizing open communication, we strengthen our family’s bonds.

Prioritize Quality Time:

Amidst our busy lives, make an effort to spend quality time with loved ones. Share meals, engage in activities, and have heartfelt conversations. Dedicate undivided attention to deepen connections and create lasting memories.

Support Each Other Unconditionally:

Embrace the idea of unconditional support and acceptance within your family. Be there for one another through successes and challenges, fostering a sense of belonging and trust.

Embrace Traditions and Rituals:

Celebrate and embrace your family’s unique traditions and rituals. These customs provide a sense of continuity, identity, and connection across generations. Create shared experiences that everyone can look forward to.

Extend Ohana Beyond Blood Ties:

Remember that family can extend beyond blood relations. Embrace chosen family—close friends and loved ones—as part of your ohana. Broadening the definition of the family creates a diverse and inclusive support network.

Taking Care of the Land:

Practice sustainability and stewardship of natural resources to make sure that future generations can enjoy the beauty that we have today. Do not pollute the environment, and be mindful of how our actions impact others. Refrain from overfishing, overhunting, or taking more than what you need.

Respect Wildlife, Including Hawaiian Monk Seals and Green Sea Turtles:

Give them distance, and do not attempt to touch or chase them.

The Word Ohana and the Taro Plant

The word ohana comes from the oha or shoot of the taro plant, an important food source in Hawaiian culture. Native Hawaiians believed that the oha was the root of the origin, which was cut off and replanted to grow more taro plants.

Like the taro shoot, members of the ohana were seen as interdependent parts of a larger family unit. This idea that we are all connected and responsible for each other became central to Hawaiian culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Ohana Mean Love?

Ohana does not directly translate to “love” in Hawaiian; it means “family” or “extended family.” However, the concept of ohana emphasizes love and close relationships within a community. It represents the deep affection, support, and unity within a family, whether through blood ties or chosen connections. So while ohana means “family,” love is integral to its meaning.

Is Ohana Japanese or Hawaiian?

Ohana is a Hawaiian word and concept. It comes from the Hawaiian language and is deeply rooted in native culture, making it an essential part of the islands’ identity. The spirit of ohana reflects Hawaiian values and emphasizes the importance of familial bonds, kinship, respect, and support.

Final Thoughts

We hope this blog post helps you understand the importance of ohana and how it can bring us together as a community. At the end of the day, family—in all its forms—is what we make it.

Investing in relationships and forming lasting bonds based on love and mutual respect gives our lives meaning. So embrace the spirit of ohana and aloha, cherish your connections, and never forget that we are all part of one big family.