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HOW DO THEY CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS IN HAWAII?

Christmas stocking on palm tree

Island Essence on how Hawaiians celebrate the Christmas holiday season.  The magical winter season is a great time to get out on the ocean and enjoy a snorkel or manta ray tour.  Join us on the Hoku Nui for a not to miss experience.  Mele Kalikimaka from all of us at Sea Paradise!

At this time of the year, Christmas is most likely on the minds of people. And with this holiday, we usually associate it with the winter season. Families gather around the fireplace sipping from hot mugs full of delicious cocoa while snow falls outside.

But what about tropical places like Hawaii, where cultures and traditions mix? Does Hawaii celebrate Christmas? The answer is yes!

HISTORY OF THE HAWAIIAN CHRISTMAS

Protestant missionaries arrived on the island in 1819 and introduced Christmas to the Hawaiians. But before this, the Hawaiians already had a festival that was similar to it. They called this festival Makahiki, and it lasted four months, based on the lunar candle. Makahiki focused on resting and eating as a celebration of the local god, Lono. Also, during the season of Makahiki, all wars were forbidden. It had the same essence of peace and goodwill to all men that Christmas has.

In 1856, King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma officially celebrated Christmas as a day of Thanksgiving, and by 1862, the King declared it an official holiday.

HAWAIIAN CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

Hawaii’s vibrant indigenous culture means that locals celebrate Christmas differently compared to how we know it. So how do they celebrate Christmas in Hawaii?

CHRISTMAS TREES ARRIVE BY SHIP

The tropical paradise that is Hawaii is ideal for palm trees, not pine trees. But some locals still want to have a Christmas tree they can decorate. That’s why every year, the Christmas tree ships visit the islands. They bring with them refrigerated containers containing real Christmas trees. At the same time, other Hawaiians like to show their festive spirit by keeping it local. They would decorate the palm trees in their towns with Christmas lights that look fantastic come nighttime.

SHAKA SANTA RIDES AN OUTRIGGER CANOE

They also added a Hawaiian twist to their image of Santa: he is commonly known as Shaka Santa. This is in reference to the “hang loose” hand sign that a Santa statue in Honolulu City Lights waves. And, he doesn’t come riding in on his traditional sleigh. Instead, in true Hawaiian fashion, he arrives in an outrigger canoe pulled by dolphins! But, of course, reindeers are hard to come by in Hawaii, so locals can get a little creative with their interpretations.

CHRISTMAS LUAU

Of course, feasts are still a staple for a Christmas in Hawaii. Families and communities gather together in the backyard or the beach for a Christmas feast or a traditional luau. A Hawaiian Christmas feast is never complete without the kalua pig. Kalua is a traditional cooking style in Hawaii, where they cook the food with an Imu or an underground oven. They bury the pig with hot rocks and banana leaves. After much patience, the result is a deliciously cooked pig with incredible texture and flavor that is definitely worth the wait.

MELE KALIKIMAKA

Usually, people greet each other with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. In Hawaii, however, it’s different. Hawaiians say Mele Kalikimaka to wish each other a wonderful festive season. And for Christmas carols, you bet that they also have their versions. Hawaiians will pull out their ukuleles and sing the carols in Hawaiian with some hula dancing too.

Christmas in Hawaii is a fun and wonderful time that many locals and tourists look forward to every year. Putting their unique Hawaiian twist to this traditional holiday makes for an exciting way of celebrating it.

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