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Celebrating Christmas in Hawaii

Updated on April 29, 2015

Celebrating Christmas in Hawaii is quite different from the celebrations in the rest of the United States. This is for a combination of reasons. For one, there are no cold snowy days in Hawaii and the little snow that appears on the tallest mountains has not arrived by the end of December in this warm climate. This means no snowmen, no making angles in the snow and almost no fireplaces for hanging Christmas stockings. In fact, Santa does not come down the chimneys of Hawaii after flying along in his great sled laden with gifts and pulled by reindeer.

In Hawaii, Santa appears in a big red outrider canoe, pulls it up on the beach, gets out barefoot and then begins to give out gifts. Some stories even have the canoe being pulled along by dolphins. This outrider is able to carry him across the seas and while he uses this means of transportation to help the Hawaii Christmas celebrations get going, his reindeer are able to rest until they are needed again.


Christmas Celebration Hawaiian Style

For the Hawaiians the celebration of Christmas came only after the Europeans settled there, bringing with them their unique customs and beliefs. This began around the early 1820s when missionaries came to the island to convert everyone to Christianity. Originally a celebration occurred around that time which was a time to feast during which any conflicts amongst the tribes were forbidden. This celebration, called Makahiki, lasted for four months and was considered a time of peace and when men should treat each other equally. Interestingly, in 1786 there was a Christmas celebration in Hawaii when a British captain stopped in Kauai to allow his crew to celebrate Christmas with a roasted pig.

One of the biggest celebrations of the Hawaii Christmas is Honolulu City Lights, and takes place at the city hall. In the middle of this celebration there will be a fifty foot evergreen, a Norfolk pine, which is covered with bright lights. Also around the city hall are wreaths and lots of live entertainment to keep the party going.

Some Hawaiians grow their own trees but many more wait for the arrival of the boat carrying the trees so they can pick the biggest, the finest and most often despite the various types of evergreens available, the most beautiful pine trees. Some think that a real Hawaii Christmas needs to have palm trees decorated as well. In addition, artificial trees are a popular choice for individuals who may be allergic to pine trees. Artificial trees may be either a palm or a pine tree look-alike.

The food eaten during the Hawaii Christmas celebration is not what the rest of the United States would consider exactly traditional. Though there is often turkey served it is as likely to be accompanied by tamales, sushi, lumpia, poke, manapua and coconut pudding. Poke is fish that has been marinated in soy sauce with sesame oil, rice vinegar and a variety of spices while manapua is a sweet dish of meat filled rolls, which have been steamed.

Some Christmas dinners in Hawaii go even more traditional Hawaiian and serve roasted pig, or salmon with a chicken noodle soup and poi. After this delicious meal, families and friends get together and have a party complete with lots of singing and the music of ukuleles and guitars.


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  • Gerber Ink profile image

    Charlotte Gerber 6 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Robie2 - I like the idea of a laid-back Santa too! Wish I was there this year instead of freezing here in NY. Maybe next year!

  • robie2 profile image

    Roberta Kyle 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

    Hawaiian Christmas sounds fabulous-- I love the idea of Santa arriving barefoot in an outrigger canoe-- Aloha Santa!! great idea-- great hub. Thanks