Christmas in Hawaii Traditions
Snow or Not ~ It's Christmas in Hawaii
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaiian for Merry Christmas.
Christmas traditions in Hawaii are very unique, as there is no one tradition. On all of the islands, there is a merging of many different nationalities that over the years have melded the dividing lines together.
Out of this poi bowl, or melting pot, of different nationalities we have emerged and gained many different and unique Christmas traditions. Many of us can't even remember what it was like to have just one Christmas tradition in Hawaii if there ever was one.
Nothing in Hawaii can really be claimed as traditional because of this blending which makes for a wonderful and colorful way to celebrate. My own family is a good example of this as we are a combination of Hawaiian, Haole, Filipino, Chinese and Japanese all mixed together.
Hele on (come along) with me to get a feel of what it is like to have Christmas in Hawaii.
Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It Snows in Hawaii?
The Island of Hawaii, better known as the Big Island, is the largest island in the Hawaiian Islands chain.
When you think of Christmas in Hawaii, probably the first thing that comes to your mind is warm weather, lots of sunshine, palm trees swaying in the breeze and frolicking on beautiful white sandy beaches.
I can bet that the last thing that comes to mind when thinking of a Christmas vacation in Hawaii is snow on the ground or chestnuts roasting over an open fire in the fireplace.
Believe it or not, we do have snow on the Big Island of Hawaii during the Christmas season. You have to drive a distance to get to it, but we do have snow in Hawaii!
Yes, Virginia ~ It Does Snow in Hawaii!
No Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire In Hawaii for Christmas
North of Kailua-Kona, in the Waimea-Kamuela-Kohala area, it does get a might bit chillier than Kona, during the Christmas season. Some say that it gets downright cold if you consider the mid 40's to mid 50's cold.
Cold in Kohala is nothing like cold in the northern regions of the mainland, though, but cold enough that some of the homes in this northern part of the island are equipped with fireplaces and potbelly stoves.
However, you won't find anyone roasting chestnuts over their open fires. Maybe kukui nuts, or macadamia nuts, but not chestnuts. Chestnuts are not grown in Hawaii; nor is holly or mistletoe.
For the most part, at sea level, Hawaii is on average a balmy 86 degrees most everywhere else during the Christmas season and all year long. Except for.....
Mauna Kea ~ The Snow Topped Volcano - Tropical Storms Bring Snow to Mauna Kea
Winter Snowboarding in Hawaii on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii
Winter on Top of Mauna Kea - Hawai'i Snowboarder
Snowboarder Nyree on Mauna Kea - Photography by Sparky Leigh
Snow Boarding in Blizzard Conditions Mauna Kea - All Photos by Brent NorrisClick thumbnail to view full-size
I had never seen the snow fall until I was 35 years old and went to Colorado. When you live in Kona you don't ever seem to be on the top of Mauna Kea when it is snowing. When you wake up in the morning and see there are snow caps on Mauna Kea, that is when you make ready for the long drive to go up the mountain to play in it.
Incidentally, Mauna Kea, at over 19,000 feet above sea level and over 33,000 feet for the whole mountain, is the tallest mountain in the world, taller than Mt. Everest in the Himalayas. The elevation above sea level tends to fluctuate according to the ocean levels. The ocean is lower now than it was in the past. Global warming????
Because it does take a few hours to drive to the summit, often when you get there the snow has turned to ice because of the sun beating down on it, making skiing impossible.
Every now and then, when we've had a particularly heavy storm, there will be flooding at sea level. Then the snow at the summit will be deep enough and the high altitude weather cold enough, to ski or snowboard. The snow has to be very deep to ski, however. If it is not, it is not safe. The lava rock, when covered with snow can be deceiving, and has been the ruin of many vacations when skiers run into the rocks thinking they are snow drifts.
For our family, none of us knew how to ski. We would go up mauka (up the mountain) to play in the snow. We would build snowmen, have snowball fights and go "sledding" down the mountain on flattened cardboard boxes, paipo boards, bogey boards, or inner tubes. Anything that's available! Good fun!!
Nowadays many of our surfers have turned snowboarders when the snow is flying. If I was still young that is exactly what I would be doing too! Whoohoo!
Back then, when we grew weary of the cold, the lunch we had packed was eaten, and the cocoa and coffee were gone, we would fill the ice cooler with snowballs and back down the mountain we would go to Hapuna Beach.
The closer we would get to the beach the more layers of clothing were removed. By the time we arrived at Hapuna we were all in our swim suits throwing snowballs on the beach!
One Big Hawaiian Bradda Throwing Snowballs On the Beach
Tossing a Ball at Hapuna Beach
This is the beach where we would go to throw the snowballs at our cousins, after leaving the top of Mauna Kea.
Mele Kalikimaka from the Best Shave Ice in Kona
This video was shot in Kailua-Kona at the little beach across the street from The Scandinavian Shave Ice shop on Ali'i Drive in Kona.
Look at what the girls are throwing on the beach - woohoo! Looks like snow from Mauna Kea, but it's Shave Ice from the Scandinavian Shave Ice store. Just their way of saying Mele Kalikimaka!
Hawaiian Christmas Traditions
Christmas in Hawaii
O Da Kine Hawaiian Kine Christmas Trees
Bringing Home the Christmas Tree
Cutting or Buying a Christmas Tree in Hawaii
If you live in the big city of Honolulu on Oahu, more than likely you will buy a tree that has been shipped in from the mainland or from one of the Christmas tree farms from one of the outer islands. We grow our own trees on some farms on the Big Island, on Maui and Kaua'i.
The favorite imported trees are the blue spruce and the Douglas fir, but many of us grow our own trees right in our own yards. The only time I remember ever buying a tree was when I was living on Oahu for school. Usually we would go up mauka (into the mountains) and cut a tree. There are many different varieties of pine growing in Hawaii, especially in Kohala on th Big Island. Most of the time we were very lucky and would find a wonderful, fragrant tree to bring home. Douglas firs are my favorite, but the Colorado Blue Spruce is easier to find
Norfolk pines from Australia grow prolifically on the Big Island. It's always easy to find one of them, but we would usually pass them by unless it was our only choice. They are not very pretty (too symmetrical for my taste); their pine needles are very waxy, looking artificial; and they don't have any scent. In fact, they do look like artificial trees and they do last forever, though, just like an artificial tree!
I have had good luck rooting them and replanting after the holidays. You know what that means, though, don't you? Another tree to decorate in the backyard next year! Woohoo!
The people of Hawaii are very creative and can come up with many different ideas not only for decorating the trees but also for the trees themselves. We will decorate the coconut trees, the palm trees, the mango trees, the banana trees, the avocado trees, the kiawe trees, the kukui nut trees - it doesn't matter. If you have a tree or a bush growing in your yard, "we going decorate it"!
Unique Christmas Tree Decorating in Hawaii - Christmas Decorations are as Varied as the People of HawaiiClick thumbnail to view full-size
Poinsettias - Captain Cook, Kona Hawaii
Poinsettias grow wild along the Kona Coast and starting in October is when they begin their color change. By the time Christmas rolls around they are in full bloom.
It is difficult to tell in the photo, but these poinsettias are rather old plants and are actually trees and not close to the ground plants.
Poinsettia Christmas Tree - Hapuna Hawaii
The is a Christmas tree made entirely out of Poinsettia plants. I think Bill Adams took this photo at one of the resort hotels in Kawaihae, by Hapuna Beach, but I'm not sure.
On Oahu, the Kahala Sheraton builds a poinsettia tree in their lobby every Christmas.
Decorating the Christmas Tree in Hawaii
I love Christmas! I love the lights and the decorations. Living in Hawai'i, there is such a diverse mixture of cultures that have migrated from every part of the world, that the decorations have taken on many creative twist and turns. They range from traditional to the bazaar and everything in between.
All of these differences continue to meld into unique and beautiful creations where cultural lines are so mixed it is difficult to tell where one begins and ends. It all mixes together to just be called "local style". And what exactly is "local style"? It's whatever the local people of Hawai'i are doing. It's a conglomeration of everything "local" and this is never more evident than at Christmas.
As we say in Hawaii in our own Pigeon English, "Eh, bra, it's like what eva you like do is o.k. by me. Ain't no big ting!"
Miniature Hawaii Christmas Tree - Woven with Lauhala
This sweet miniature Hawaii Christmas tree has been decorated with tiny woven lauhala ornaments.
Mele Kalikimaka by Jimmy Buffett
Seashell Themed Christmas Trees
I have had many a seashell themed Christmas tree in Hawaii. I decorated the trees with seashells, starfish, opihi shells, sand dollars, sea urchin shells and sea urchin quills that I had found on the beach and crafted into Christmas tree ornaments.
A miniature tree decorated with tiny seashells and tiny starfish make a great accent piece for a guest room, a dining room table centerpiece or a bathroom.
Seashells may not be readily available where you live. If that is the case, you can still create a lovely seashell themed tree by purchasing shells on eBay or at your local craft store and make them yourself. You can also buy them at any number of places on the Internet.
Hawaiian Hand Quilted & Hand Appliqued Christmas Tree Skirt
Hawaiian quilting is all appliqued by hand as is the quilting. All of the stunning patterns are created from flowers, trees and plants in nature which grow in the islands. The quality of the designs comes more from the spirit of the islands than it does from the painstaking intrigue stitches of the quilter.
The quality of the designs comes more from the spirit of the islands than it does from the painstaking intrigue stitches of the quilter.
In today's world, the Hawaiian quilting techniques have migrated to the creation of Christmas tree skirts and Christmas stockings.
The skirt featured on the right was inspired by the red hibiscus flowers which are so popular in Hawaii.
Honolulu City Lights Christmas Show
Honolulu City Lights Has Been Celebrating Christmas for the Last 26 Years - Notice Mrs. Claus in Her Muumuu and Santa Saying "Shaka Bradda"!
Honolulu City Lights Christmas Tree at Night
Honolulu City Lights Christmas Tree During the Day
Santa's in Hawaii
"Kanakaloka" is Santa in Hawaiian
Santa's Making His Rounds in Hawai'i Arrives in Waikiki
Every year you will see Santa making his rounds from one island to the next, but you will seldom see him in a traditional red velvet Santa suit except at the mall. Otherwise, Santa is traveling Hawaiian style. When visiting the Hawaiian state he dresses in casual clothing for the beautiful sunshine weather.
Sometimes you'll see him wearing Hawaiian-style surfer jam aloha print shorts and sometimes palaka style shorts. Sometimes he'll be wearing a Hawaiian palaka shirt with aloha print shorts.
Sometimes you will see him in a Santa suit jacket and palaka shorts. You never know what you will see Santa wearing when you catch him visiting.
Santa Gets a Warm Welcome in Waikiki
Yee Haw! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Santa Claus Wears Palaka Shorts and Rubber Slippers When Visiting in Hawaii!
Often you can see yard displays of Santa wearing an aloha shirt, palaka (red & white plaid broadcloth fabric) shorts or Hawaiian print shorts and rubber slippers (flip flops), sitting in a canoe on the lawn. Dolphins are substituted for the reindeer and Menehunes are substituted for the elves!
In Honolulu, there are usually big displays of Santa with Mrs Claus wearing their aloha attire. Santa in his aloha shirt and Mrs. Claus wearing her aloha print muumuu.
Santa with His "Sleigh" in Kailua-Kona Village on the Big Island
Take notice of the "antlers" on Santa's headlights, his sandals and palaka (broad print cloth) shorts!
Santa's in Hawaii and Getting Ready to Ride - Santa's getting ready to cruise!
HAWAIIAN MUSIC & DANCE
Let's Take A Break For A Little Christmas Fun
Sing-a-Long to the Numbah One Day of Christmas
Let's Listen to da "Numbah One Day of Christmas" ~ Local style ~ Pidgin English ~ "12 Days of Christmas". Listen once den hana hou (play it again) and sing along with da braddas!
You can go find da kine lyrics below.
Da Kine Lyrics to "Numbah One Day of Christmas" - Hawaiian Style "12 Days of Christmas"
Go ahead and gather the keikis (kids) to Sing-a-Long to da Hawai'ian "Numbah One Day of Christmas" .
It'll be fun! Go ahead. You know you want too!
- Numbah One day of Christmas, my tutu give to me One mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Two day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Two coconut, an' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Tree day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Foah day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Five day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Seex day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Seven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Eight day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Nine day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Nine pound of poi, eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Ten day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Ten can of beer, nine pound of poi, eight ukuklele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Eleven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Eleven missionary, ten can of beer, nine pound of poi, eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree.
- Numbah Twelve day of Christmas, my tutu give to me Twelve television, eleven missionary, ten can of beer, nine pound of poi, eight ukulele, seven shrimp a-swimmin', seex hula lesson, five beeg fat peeg... foah flowah lei, tree dry squid, two coconut, An' one mynah bird in one papaya tree!
Music and Dance in the Hawaiian Islands is an Important Part of Our Hawai'ian Culture
Music and dance are a huge part of our lives in Hawai'i, and the spirit of Christmas goes hand-in-hand with the spirit of aloha. The people of Hawai'i have sweet and loving natures with hearts as large as the ocean that surrounds this small, but magical island chain.
All of the traditional Christmas carols have been translated into the Hawai'ian language, but the Hawai'ians did not stop there. Hawai'ian Christmas music continues to be created every Christmas season.
The music is so beautiful and heartfelt it will bring tears to your eyes when you feel the deep emotion within the music and are able to witness the beauty of the hula that accommodates the music. Hula is the essence of the spirit of aloha and the spirit (mana) of Hawaii.
Ke Au Maluhia (Season of Peace) - Recorded by Keali'i Reichel
Koa Wood Ukulele
Traditionally, the music is played on Hawai'ian style "slack-key" guitars and accompanied by ukuleles.
The koa wood ukuleles (shown on right) are some of the finest ukulele made in Hawaii. Koa wood is indigenous to Hawaii and is some of the most beautiful wood in the world.
Even though HubPages stretches the images larger than they should be, by default, you can still see how gorgeous the grains of the wood are and the tone coming out of a koa wood ukulele is an exquisite mellow rich sound that is difficult to surpass.
The ukulele was originally brought to the Hawaiian Islands by a Portuguese immigrant named Manuel Nunes in 1879.
The original stringed instrument was a small 5-string instrument called a Rajao which was converted into a smaller instrument called the Braguinha from Braga.
Nunes was from a small community on an island called Madeira (originally settled by the Celts of Braga). The instrument was called a “little guitar” when played in Hawaii by Portuguese seamen, traders and immigrants.
The name ukulele was coined by Queen Liliʻuokalani, our last reigning Hawaiian monarch. She considered the uke to be a great gift which came here from far away. Hence uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come).
Mele Kalikimaka Ei Nei
Everyone knows the song "Mele Kalikimaka" that Bing Crosby made famous, but this is a real Hawaiian style Mele Kalikimaka.
Mele Kalikimaka by Patrick Landeza
Patrick Landeza is singing Mele Kalikimaka accompanied with a "slack key" guitar.
The Ohana (Family) Celebrates with Hawaiian Christmas Carols & Hula
Hawaii Christmas Trivia - Did You Know?
Christmas was not celebrated at all in Hawaii in the 1800's because of the missionary influence. The missionaries did not believe in celebrating Christmas as they believed it to be a Pagan holiday.
In the year of our Lord 1835, King Kamehameha III declared December 25th to be an official holiday as a day of "Giving Thanks".
It wasn't until 1837 when the Roman Catholic Jesuit priests were celebrating Christmas aboard ship while anchored in Waianae Bay on Oahu that the day was then called "Christmas" to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas caught on and eventually the King changed his royal proclamation from a day of "Giving Thanks" to "Christmas".
It wasn't until 1843 that Christmas became official.
Traditional Hawaiian Christmas Food
Feasting in Hawaii
There really aren't any "traditional Christmas meals" in Hawaii. Some cultures will stubbornly cling to their immigrant backgrounds, but for the most part, Christmas dinners are a big bowl of poi. In other words, they are all mixed up with a little bit of this and a little bit of that from all the ethnic backgrounds Hawaii is proud to claim.
Partly because of my father's haole background, and partly because the beef from Parker Ranch was excellent and plentiful, most times on Christmas Eve we either roasted a beef tenderloin or a prime rib.
On Christmas Day, however, my Hawai'ian relatives would throw a luau. But even at the luaus it wasn't all Hawai'ian food either. There was traditional Hawai'ian food, Japanese food; Chinese food; Filipino food; Korean food, Portuguese food; Spanish and Mexican food; Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, Maori and Guamanian food; and haole food, which covers all Celtic and European food. One time we had visitors from the mainland that brought Ethiopian food!
Da Kine Grinds - "Traditional" Food in HawaiiClick thumbnail to view full-size
Christmas Luau Kaukau (Food)
More Grinds You May Find at a Da Kine Hawaiian Christmas Luau
- Chicken, Squid or Octopus Lu'au is a traditional Hawaiian dish that is made from one of these proteins and baked with coconut cream and young taro leave tops. Sometimes seaweed is added too. It is an extremely healthy dish!
Trivia: In ancient Hawai'i turtle meat was used just for the Ali'i (Royalty)
- Sashimi (Japanese style raw ahi)
- Japanese sushi and musubi
- Chicken Long Rice (who knows were this stewed chicken, tomato, garlic and long rice (cellophane noodles) dish came from, but we all love it and we all have our individual styles of making it.)
- Bar-B-Q meat sticks (usually Japanese or Korean style teriyaki beef or chicken on a skewer)
- Chinese ginger chicken (boiled whole chicken served chilled with grated ginger, garlic and green onion sauce)
- Opulehu' or Kalbi short ribs (Hawaiian style or Korean style barbecue short ribs) Some times you have both!
- Always plenty of poi, white rice and Portuguese Sweetbread.
- Filipino Pork or Chicken Adobo
- Boiled or kalua sweet potato, yam and taro
- Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Fruit Salad, Seafood Salad, Green Lettuce Salad and Veggie Salads.
- Asian noodle salad (boiled noodles with sesame, soy and shredded vegetables chilled and garnished) Dependant on who is making it, it could be Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, or Vietnamese style.
- Any assortment of seafood including fish, crab, and crustaceans fixed in a wide variety of ways.
- Lots of fresh fruit, bowls of won ton chips, taro chips and western chips, kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage and chili peppers), and what eva any body like brings 'cause dey like eating it.
- Desserts can be anything, but usually include, haupia coconut cake, haupia pudding, kalolo (Hawai'ian dessert made from taro), a sheet cake or two, cookies. I have often made an haupia cheesecake, a pumpkin cheesecake, or a cranberry cheesecake to bring along. .
How to Kalua the Pig in the Luau Pit
Eh! For All You Guys Who Like Try Kalua Pig at Home - Only Easy Dakine Oven Roasted Kalua Pig Recipe
Easy Dakine Oven Roasted Kalua Pig
Yeah! For Real! No Joke!
Preheat oven to 450 degree F.
What You Need:
- You get one 5 to 10 lb. pork butt (depending if feeding only little bit or one crowd)
- You get one big roasting pan or pot to hold the pork butt (no need da lid so no worry if no can find)
- 1 bottle liquid smoke (no worry bradda & seesta, you not going use da whole ting; unless maybe you make 20 lb. pork butt Ha!Ha!)
- Hawaiian Salt ( Das OK. if no mo;can use Kosher salt)
- Hawaiian Ti Leaf (If get - check Asian Market)
- Banana Leaf (If get - check Asian Market)
- Aluminum foil
- One rack in da roasting pan (no worry if no rack, no need)
- You get da liquid smoke and pour all ova da pork. Rub it in where eva can.
- Get da Hawaiian salt (or Kosher) and pour one handful in da hand. Rub da salt all ova da pork butt.
- Wrap up good wit da ti leaf (hard to get in mainland, so if no more, no worry) den wid banana leaf
- If no ti leaf, or banana leaf das OK. Just put da pork on da rack in da roasting pan wit da fat side up.
- Cover da whole ting with double sheet foil. Make sure you seal um tight.
- Put in da oven.
- Wait 5 minutes.
- Turn oven down to 250 degree F. and leave inside for 8 hour.
- No peek for at least 6 hour. I know you wanna but don't do it.
- Depending how big da pork butt. If 5 lbs. try cook 6 hour din check
- If easy to pull of da bone den done.
- No peek for at least 6 hour if 5 lb. or more!
- When pau (finish) let cool little bit so no burn da fingers, den pull-shred off da bone.
So easy, no?
Note: If you live some place what has banana leaf or ti leave, then try wrap da pork in da leaves before sealing wid da foil. If you no got ~ no worry! Still going be ono-licious!
Hawaiian Sea Salt
This is the kind if Hawaiian salt that I order from Hawaii to make my Kalua Pig here in the mainland.
I use this Hawaiian salt for everything at home. In other words, I have replaced all table salt with this Hawaiian salt. I put in in a salt grinder to use at the table.
My family has been using this brand for over 50 years.