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Hawaii Christmas: Celebrate The Holidays In Paradise


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Pier Lunsford



Welcome to Hawaii, where the spirit of aloha merges with the magic of Christmas to create a truly unforgettable holiday experience. While snow-covered landscapes may be associated with the holiday season, Hawaii offers a unique and enchanting alternative. Imagine celebrating Christmas with palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze, warm golden sands, and the rhythmic sounds of ukuleles playing festive tunes. The holiday season in Hawaii is a delightful blend of traditional customs and unique island flair.


From the vibrant decorations adorning the streets to the joyful festivities that fill the air, Hawaii offers a one-of-a-kind Christmas celebration that will surely leave you with treasured memories. In this article, we will take a closer look at the history of Christmas in Hawaii, the traditional Hawaiian decorations, the multitude of events and festivities during the Christmas season, the unique Hawaiian Christmas traditions, the enchanting Hawaiian music and dance, the popular activities to enjoy during the holidays, and some delectable Hawaiian Christmas recipes.


History of Christmas in Hawaii

The celebration of Christmas in Hawaii has a rich and diverse history that dates back to the arrival of Christian missionaries in the early 19th century. Prior to their arrival, the indigenous Hawaiian people did not observe Christmas as it was not a part of their traditional culture. However, with the spread of Christianity, the holiday gradually began to gain significance in the Hawaiian Islands.


The first recorded Christmas celebration in Hawaii took place in 1786 when Captain George Dixon and his crew from the British ship Queen Charlotte landed on the island of Kauai. They held a Christmas service, making it the first documented Christmas observance in the Hawaiian Islands.


After the arrival of Christian missionaries, Christmas became more widely celebrated throughout the islands. The missionaries introduced traditions such as the Christmas tree, Christmas carols, and the nativity scene. These traditions were embraced by the Hawaiian people and assimilated into their own unique customs.


Over time, Christmas in Hawaii evolved to incorporate elements of both Western and Hawaiian cultures. The holiday season in Hawaii is a time of joy, unity, and festivities that bring together people from diverse backgrounds. In addition to the religious aspects, Christmas in Hawaii also emphasizes the importance of family, community, and gratitude.


One of the most significant events in Hawaii during the Christmas season is the King Kamehameha IV’s proclamation of December 25th as a national holiday in 1862. This declaration solidified Christmas as an official holiday in Hawaii and further contributed to its growth and popularity.


Today, Christmas in Hawaii is celebrated with great enthusiasm and is cherished as a time for family reunions, feasting, and spreading aloha. The unique blend of Hawaiian and Western traditions makes Christmas in Hawaii a truly distinctive and heartwarming experience.


Traditional Hawaiian Christmas Decorations

When it comes to Christmas decorations in Hawaii, you can expect to see a wonderful fusion of Hawaiian and traditional holiday elements. While you won’t find snow-covered landscapes, you’ll discover an abundance of vibrant and tropical adornments that create a festive atmosphere.


One of the most iconic Hawaiian Christmas decorations is the fresh flower lei. These beautiful garlands, made from native Hawaiian flowers such as plumeria and orchids, are a symbol of love and aloha. During the holiday season, you’ll find leis in various colors and fragrances adorning homes, streets, and even Christmas trees.


Hawaiian quilts also play a significant role in Christmas decorations. These meticulously handcrafted quilts often feature intricate patterns inspired by nature, culture, and mythology. Displaying a Hawaiian quilt during the holiday season brings a touch of elegance and traditional charm to any home.


Poinsettias, known as the Hawaiian Christmas plant, are another popular decoration. These vibrant red and green flowers add a festive touch to homes, churches, and public spaces. Legend has it that poinsettias were brought to Hawaii by Joel Poinsett, the United States’ first ambassador to Mexico, in the early 19th century.


Of course, Christmas trees are a staple in Hawaiian homes during the holiday season. While some opt for traditional evergreen trees, others embrace the island spirit by decorating palm trees with twinkling lights, ornaments, and even seashells. The sight of palm trees wrapped in sparkling lights against the backdrop of a warm Hawaiian night sky is simply magical.


Hawaiian ornaments, crafted from shells, wood, and other local materials, add a unique touch to Christmas trees and decorations. These handcrafted ornaments often depict ocean creatures, tropical flowers, and traditional Hawaiian symbols, adding a touch of island elegance to the festive ambiance.


Finally, no Hawaiian Christmas decoration is complete without a beautiful ahu’ula, or feather cape. Originally worn by Hawaiian royalty, these capes adorned with vibrant feathers are now displayed as works of art during the holiday season. The striking colors and intricate designs create a stunning centerpiece that captures the essence of Hawaiian culture.


From flower leis to palm trees adorned with lights, traditional Hawaiian Christmas decorations bring a touch of the islands to the holiday season. Whether you’re visiting Hawaii or embracing the island spirit in your own home, these unique adornments add a special charm and warmth to the festive celebrations.


Events and Festivities during the Christmas Season

The Christmas season in Hawaii is filled with a wide array of events and festivities that showcase the unique blend of Hawaiian culture and holiday spirit. From parades to concerts and special performances, there is something for everyone to enjoy during this magical time of year.


One of the most anticipated events during the Christmas season in Hawaii is the annual Honolulu City Lights Festival. This month-long celebration kicks off with a grand tree lighting ceremony and features a dazzling display of holiday lights and decorations throughout downtown Honolulu. Visitors can marvel at the giant illuminated tree, stroll through the enchanting displays, and enjoy live entertainment and food vendors.


Another highlight of the Christmas season in Hawaii is the Festival of Lights at the historic Iolani Palace. This beloved event features a display of beautifully decorated Christmas trees, stunning light installations, and artistic exhibits. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the palace grounds, marvel at the intricate decorations, and immerse themselves in the festive ambiance.


Hawaii is also known for its festive Christmas parades. The Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade on the island of Kauai is a cherished tradition that showcases local businesses, community groups, and marching bands. Spectators can enjoy the procession of beautifully decorated floats, festive music, and the spirit of aloha that fills the air.


The Big Island is home to the Waimea Christmas Parade, known for its unique cowboy-themed flair. This lively parade features paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) riders, festive floats, and a joyful atmosphere that truly captures the spirit of the holidays in Hawaii.


Throughout the Christmas season, live music concerts and performances are also held across the islands. From traditional Hawaiian music and hula performances to festive choral concerts, there is no shortage of entertainment that will get you in the holiday spirit.


For those seeking a more unique experience, the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu offers a special Christmas celebration called “Hā: Breath of Life – Christmas Edition.” This captivating show combines Polynesian dance, music, storytelling, and spectacular fire performances, all infused with a festive Christmas theme.


Other festive activities during the Christmas season include holiday craft fairs, where you can find handmade gifts and local treasures, as well as visits to Santa Claus at shopping centers and resorts. The entire state of Hawaii is adorned with holiday cheer, making every corner you turn a joyful experience.


Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, the events and festivities during the Christmas season in Hawaii are sure to warm your heart and leave you with lasting memories of a truly magical holiday experience.


Unique Hawaiian Christmas Traditions

While Hawaii embraces many traditional Christmas customs, the islands also have their own unique holiday traditions that add a special touch to the festivities. These traditions blend elements of Hawaiian culture, history, and the aloha spirit, creating a truly memorable and distinct Christmas experience.


One of the most prominent Hawaiian Christmas traditions is the lighting of the Christmas Eve candle. In many households, families gather on Christmas Eve to light a candle and say a prayer together. This symbolizes the welcoming of Christ’s light into their homes and hearts, fostering love, peace, and unity.


Another cherished tradition is the Hawaiian Christmas feast, known as the “Kalua Pig” or “Kalua Turkey.” This cooking method involves slow-roasting the meat in an underground imu (an oven made of hot rocks and banana leaves). The result is tender and flavorful meat that is the centerpiece of the festive meal.


Hawaiians also embrace the giving of gifts during the Christmas season. However, instead of the traditional exchange of presents on Christmas morning, Hawaii has a unique twist. Many families participate in “Mele Kalikimaka,” a local variation of Secret Santa. They draw names and anonymously give small gifts throughout the entire month of December, spreading joy and surprise throughout the holiday season.


The Hawaiian Christmas season is also a time for traditions that honor the culture and history of the islands. One such tradition is the Makahiki Festival, which takes place from November to January. This ancient Hawaiian festival celebrates the harvest and the arrival of a new year, with games, ceremonies, and feasting. It is a time for community to come together, reflect on the past year, and welcome the new year with gratitude and joy.


The spirit of giving and community extends to the Hawaiian practice of participating in charity events and volunteer work during the Christmas season. Many individuals and organizations organize food drives, toy drives, and other charitable activities to help those in need. This embodies the true meaning of Christmas – spreading aloha and selflessness to make a difference in the lives of others.


Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Hawaiian Christmas without embracing the natural beauty of the islands. Many locals and visitors alike take part in the tradition of watching the rising of the Christmas Star, also known as the Star of Bethlehem. This involves waking up early on Christmas morning to witness the breathtaking sunrise over the ocean, marveling at the splendor of nature and the symbolism of the holiday.


These unique Hawaiian Christmas traditions add depth and richness to the holiday season in Hawaii. They celebrate the essence of Hawaiian culture, foster a sense of community, and remind us all of the importance of love, gratitude, and coming together in unity.


Hawaiian Christmas Music and Dance

Music and dance are integral parts of the Hawaiian culture, and during the Christmas season, they take on a special festive flair. Hawaiian Christmas music and dance bring joy, harmony, and a unique island charm to the holiday celebrations.


Hawaiian Christmas songs, or “mele Kalikimaka,” have become beloved classics that capture the spirit of the islands during the holiday season. These songs often feature a mix of English and Hawaiian lyrics, combined with traditional Hawaiian melodies and instruments such as the ukulele and steel guitar. From popular favorites like “Mele Kalikimaka” to original compositions celebrating the beauty of the islands during Christmastime, the music fills the air with a warm and melodic embrace.


Traditional Hawaiian hula also plays a significant role in the Christmas celebrations. Hula is a storytelling dance that incorporates graceful movements, expressive gestures, and vibrant costumes. During the holiday season, hula dancers bring to life the songs and stories of the Christmas season through their performances. They embody the joy and spirit of Christmas with their graceful movements and powerful expressions, captivating audiences with the beauty and artistry of Hawaiian dance.


It is not uncommon to find hula performances that incorporate both traditional and contemporary Christmas songs, creating a unique fusion of Hawaiian culture and holiday music. Hula halau (hula schools) across the islands prepare special Christmas performances, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Hawaii while embracing the festive spirit.


In addition to hula, other Hawaiian cultural dance forms such as Tahitian and Samoan dances also make appearances during the Christmas season. These energetic and vibrant performances add an extra layer of excitement, showcasing the diverse Polynesian cultures that have influenced Hawaii’s traditions.


Attending a Hawaiian Christmas concert or show is a wonderful way to experience the joy of the holiday season through music and dance. Many artists and choirs perform throughout the islands, sharing their talents and spreading the spirit of aloha through their performances of traditional and contemporary Christmas music.


Whether you’re listening to a beautiful rendition of “Silent Night” with a Hawaiian twist or watching a mesmerizing hula performance, the Hawaiian Christmas music and dance transport you to a world of beauty, joy, and cultural richness.


So, as you celebrate Christmas in Hawaii, immerse yourself in the enchanting melodies, rhythmic dances, and the aloha spirit that are the heart and soul of Hawaiian Christmas music and dance.


Popular Christmas Activities in Hawaii

The holiday season in Hawaii is a time of joy, celebration, and a wide range of activities that make the most of the island’s breathtaking natural beauty. From festive outdoor adventures to cultural experiences, there are plenty of popular Christmas activities to enjoy during your time in Hawaii.


One of the most popular activities during the Christmas season is taking a festive sunset cruise. Hop aboard a catamaran or sailboat and set sail along the coast, enjoying stunning views of the ocean, coastline, and perhaps even spotting dolphins or sea turtles. As the sun sets over the horizon, the sky transforms into a colorful canvas, providing a magical backdrop for celebrating the holidays in paradise.


For those seeking a unique cultural experience, attending a traditional Hawaiian luau during the Christmas season is a must. You can feast on delicious Hawaiian cuisine, witness captivating hula performances, listen to live music, and learn about the rich history and traditions of the islands. The combination of delicious food, mesmerizing entertainment, and warm hospitality creates an unforgettable Christmas celebration.


Exploring Hawaii’s natural wonders is a popular activity year-round, and during Christmas, it takes on a festive twist. Take a hike to one of the many breathtaking waterfalls on the islands, or embark on a scenic trail through lush rainforests and volcanic landscapes. With temperate weather and fewer crowds, the Christmas season is an ideal time to reconnect with nature and experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Hawaii.


Another popular Christmas activity is snorkeling or scuba diving in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the islands. Discover stunning coral reefs, vibrant marine life, and maybe even spot a majestic sea turtle or playful dolphin. Underwater adventures provide a sense of tranquility and wonder, and the warm Pacific waters make it an enjoyable experience all year round.


Visiting the local farmers’ markets is also a delightful way to embrace the holiday season in Hawaii. These markets offer an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, tropical flowers, and unique artisanal goods. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick up fresh ingredients for a tropical Christmas feast or find locally made gifts to share with loved ones.


Attending a Christmas craft fair is another beloved activity in Hawaii. These fairs showcase the talents and creativity of local artisans, offering a wide range of handmade crafts, artwork, and unique souvenirs. From handcrafted jewelry and clothing to intricate woodwork and tropical-themed artwork, these fairs provide an excellent opportunity to support local artists and find one-of-a-kind holiday gifts.


Lastly, celebrating Christmas in Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without enjoying the beautiful beaches that make the islands so renowned. Take a leisurely walk along the pristine sandy shores, bask in the warm sunshine, or try your hand at surfing or paddleboarding. The refreshing ocean breeze and breathtaking coastal views create the perfect backdrop for relaxing and enjoying the holiday spirit.


From sunset cruises to exploring waterfalls, attending luaus, and embracing the beauty of the islands, there is no shortage of popular Christmas activities in Hawaii. Soak up the festive atmosphere, connect with nature, and create lasting memories during this magical time of year.


Hawaiian Christmas Recipes

The holiday season in Hawaii is a time for feasting and indulging in delicious traditional recipes that showcase the flavors of the islands. From succulent roasted meats and seafood to tropical fruits and sweet treats, Hawaiian Christmas recipes are a delightful fusion of local ingredients and cultural influences.


One iconic dish of Hawaiian Christmas celebrations is Kalua Pig. This tender and flavorful roasted pork is traditionally cooked in an imu, an underground oven. The pork is seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt and slow-roasted for hours, resulting in juicy and smoky meat that is often the centerpiece of the holiday feast.


Poke, a beloved Hawaiian staple, is another popular dish during Christmas. This fresh and flavorful dish consists of diced raw fish, often marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, and other seasonings. With various varieties and combinations of fish, vegetables, and seasonings, poke is a vibrant and refreshing addition to any holiday spread.


For seafood lovers, Ahi Tuna is a must-try Hawaiian Christmas dish. Fresh, high-quality tuna is typically seared to perfection, creating a mouthwatering combination of tender fish and crispy edges. It’s often served with a tangy soy-based sauce and enjoyed as a main course or in sushi rolls.


As for side dishes, lomi lomi salmon is a classic Hawaiian favorite. This refreshing salad combines diced salmon, tomatoes, onions, and seasonings like salt and lime juice. The flavors meld together beautifully, creating a bright and zesty accompaniment to the main course.


When it comes to beverages, a popular Christmas drink in Hawaii is POG (Passionfruit, Orange, and Guava) Juice. This tropical concoction blends the flavors of these three fruits into a refreshing, tangy, and sweet beverage that perfectly complements the festive atmosphere.


And, of course, no Hawaiian Christmas would be complete without delicious desserts. One beloved treat is Haupia, a creamy coconut pudding. This silky dessert is made from coconut milk, sugar, and cornstarch, resulting in a delightful combination of sweetness and tropical flavors.


To satisfy your sweet tooth further, consider trying Malasadas, a Portuguese-inspired deep-fried pastry. These fluffy and sweet donuts are rolled in sugar and often filled with decadent fillings like chocolate, custard, or tropical fruit flavors.


For a truly unique dessert experience, try Poi Mochi. This chewy and slightly sweet treat combines mochi, a Japanese rice cake, with traditional Hawaiian poi, resulting in a delightful fusion of textures and flavors.


These are just a few examples of the mouthwatering Hawaiian Christmas recipes that highlight the flavors of the islands. Whether you’re enjoying the succulent roasted meats, fresh seafood, tropical fruits, or delightful desserts, each dish brings a taste of Hawaii to your holiday celebrations.



Christmas in Hawaii is a unique and memorable experience that combines the magic of the holiday season with the beauty of the islands. From the rich history of Christmas in Hawaii to the vibrant decorations, events, and traditions, there is so much to discover and appreciate during this festive time.


As you stroll the streets adorned with flower leis and immerse yourself in the joyful festivities, you’ll witness the perfect blend of Hawaiian culture and traditional holiday customs. The warm hospitality, breathtaking natural landscapes, and the spirit of aloha create a welcoming and enchanting atmosphere that is truly special.


Whether you’re enjoying the sounds of Hawaiian Christmas music, savoring the flavors of traditional dishes, or participating in the various activities and events, the Christmas season in Hawaii offers a unique perspective that celebrates love, unity, and gratitude.


So, embrace the beauty of the islands, embark on outdoor adventures, and indulge in the delicious food and cultural experiences that make the Christmas season in Hawaii so extraordinary. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Christmas in Hawaii is a time to create treasured memories that will last a lifetime.


Celebrate the holidays in paradise, where the traditions of the islands blend harmoniously with the festive spirit of Christmas. From the warm sands to the swaying palm trees, Hawaii offers a truly magical and unforgettable holiday experience for all who visit.