All About Heiva: A Traditional Polynesian Celebration


With the summer on its way, French Polynesia will soon be getting ready for Heiva, an annual festival that has become emblematic of Polynesian culture.  “Heiva,” which comes  from the Polynesian words meaning “to assemble” and “community places,” celebrates traditional Polynesian activities, including festivals, music, dancing, singing, and sporting events.

Heiva originated in 1881 after France annexed Polynesia from the English, whose Protestant missionaries had called for dance to be outlawed, as they felt it was erotic debauchery.  After the French acquisition, the celebration of Bastille Day became symbolic for Polynesians.  In an effort to overcome the Anglo-Saxon influence, France permitted the Polynesians to indulge in sports and dancing on Bastille Day.  Beginning that same year, dance in Polynesia made a resurgence after being restricted for decades.

In 1985, nearly a decade after French Polynesia gained more autonomy from France, Heiva officially replaced the Polynesian holiday of Tiurai.  Heiva has since become an iconic event for Polynesian culture.  Dance competitions, which are some of the most important events in Heiva, are prepared for months in advance by dancers.  Music, choreography, and costumes, while based on historical or legendary themes, are uniquely created for each Heiva.  Traditional sporting events, including as stone lifting competitions, javelin throwing competitions, and canoe races are also an integral part of Heiva.

If you’re in Polynesia during the summer months, it is absolutely worth checking out these traditional, unique, and fun events!  Some of this year’s Heiva events include:

  • Dancing School Heiva – Ori Tahiti
    May 29 thru June 7, 2014
    Location: Toata Square, Papeete, Tahiti
  • Heiva i Bora Bora
    June 20 to July 13, 2014
    Location: Vaitape, Bora Bora
  • Heiva Rima’i
    June 2014
    Location: Aorai Tini Hau, Pirae, Tahiti
  • Heiva Va’a Races
    July 4-5, 2014
    Location: Papeete, Tahiti
  • Heiva Tahiti 133rd edition
    July 3-19, 2014
    Location: Place Toata, Papeete, Tahiti
  • Heiva Tu’aro Ma’ohi
    July 12-13-14-26, 2014
    Location: Paofai Gardens, Tahiti

Want to attend Heiva 2014?  Check out one of our amazing vacation packages to get on your way!

By | 2014-05-27T17:52:46+00:00 May 27th, 2014|Tahiti, Tahiti Attractions|0 Comments