When it comes to Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, Hawaii is unique in many ways. Of course, there’s no season of snow to give it that “traditional” Christmas look that so many associate with the holidays. That doesn’t mean it’s without its own brand of Christmas wonder and charm! There will be numerous parades, concerts, and performances in communities around Oahu, but Santa might be sporting a red Aloha shirt and surf shorts instead of that hot fur garb, and he often arrives via an outrigger canoe! There will be tree lighting ceremonies, such as the Annual Tree Lighting in front of Honolulu Hale (city hall), and many homes decorate with light displays, just as elsewhere. However, in addition to the pine, spruce, and fir trees flown in from the mainland, you will just as likely see local Norfolk Island pine trees which grow here in Hawaii and have long been used as Christmas trees. You will also often see these trees decorated with beautiful flower lei instead of tinsel! Even our tall, elegant palm trees get in on the holiday decorating and are often graced with lights at Christmas!
Christmas dinners may also differ from “traditional” mainland fare, and often include an assortment of dishes which represent the various cultural backgrounds of the people who live here. Turkey is likely to be replaced by Kahlua pig, mashed potatoes by sticky white rice, and other side dishes might include poke, sashimi, sushi, and/or the purple island sweet potatoes. Desserts such as haupia, bibingka, and halo halo are popular too.
Christmas music includes some of the favorites, but often with an “island twist”, such as Numbah One Day of Christmas My Tutu Gave to Me, instead of The Twelve Days of Christmas you are used to hearing. Ukuleles and slack key guitars are the usual accompaniments and, if you are blessed, you will get to watch some beautiful hulas done to songs such as Silent Night, sung in Hawaiian no less!
You will hear the greetings “Mele Kalikimaka” or “Maligayang Pasko” (Hawaiian and Filipino versions of “Merry Christmas”), and at New Year’s you will hear “Hau`oli Makahiki Hou” (or “Gung Hay Fat Choy”….at Chinese New Year). New Year’s celebrations range from the traditional fireworks to the more ethnic New Year’s that many of our Asian cultures follow. Chinese New Year, for example, usually occurs sometime in late January or early February and the Lion Dances are a big hit with everyone! Overall, as you can see, the holidays are fun, colorful, and uniquely “Hawaiian”. If you are here visiting during this time we are sure you will enjoy the sights, sounds, and “island aloha” of our Hawaiian Holiday traditions!