A view of lighted Christmas trees and fireworks during Christmas in Hawaii. A view of lighted Christmas trees and fireworks during Christmas in Hawaii.

Unbelievable Festive Experiences: Christmas in Hawaii

There is no doubt that Hawaii is a unique state, and that too, in many ways. The soothing tropical season and cultural diversity make it even more beautiful.

As in many other Western countries, Christmas is one of the most important festivals in Hawaii. People believe that it started after 1820.

Hawaii celebrated Christmas and the holiday season with the arrival of protestant missionaries for the first time.

Before the Hawaiians celebrated the Christmas spirit, they had another festival known as Makahiki; the festival lasted for around four months.

Makahiki is a harvest festival that pays homage to the indigenous deity Lono. Historically, during this period, battles and fighting were outlawed.

Populations from all around Hawaii would come together to compete in games like arm wrestling and spear throwing.

During the festivals, beaches and the white wave breaks often mark a “white Christmas” in Hawaii to keep your holiday spirit alive. Mauna Kea, a Hawaiian name for “White Mountains,” and Mauna Loa—are two of the best skiing or snowboarding peaks.

The weather is not very cold; it can be warm and pleasant. During the day, the temperatures can be more than 70 Fahrenheit or around 26-27 Celsius.

The usual things you see everywhere at Christmas are spectacular Christmas decorations like Santa, Christmas lights, and Christmas trees, which can all be seen in Hawaii.

But Christmas cheer in Hawaii is different because of the Hawaiian touch they add to everything. If we take Santa, for example, we can see the difference in Santa’s costumes.

The Santa we generally see wears a full-sleeved shirt and full-length pants, but according to Hawaiian Christmas traditions, Santa wears the costume’s short-sleeved version.

Sometimes, you can find Santa carrying a surfboard, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and sporting shorts. How cool would it be to celebrate Christmas with a surfing Hawaiian Santa? Let’s check that out!

1. The History of Hawaiian Christmas Traditions

Until 1862, Christmas wasn’t even a festival in Hawaii, but there was a tradition to celebrate the successful journey of the sailor of the British ship Queen Charlotte to the west side of Kauai.

The sole purpose of this journey was to hunt a wild pig for their vacation supper and gather coconuts to drink with rum for their festive beverages.

This celebration has hints from around the world, introduced by Catholic and Protestant priests, later on by sailors and traders, and eventually, this celebration gradually became Hawaii’s seasonal custom.

The festivities also coincide with Thanksgiving, and for a period, December 25th was marked as Hawaii’s official Thanksgiving Day until Christmas became a legally recognized holiday on the islands.

2. Unique Things to Know about Christmas in Hawaii

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In other places, you find a snowman on Christmas but don’t be surprised if you see a snowman wearing a Hawaiian outfit. You may even find a sandman instead of a snowman.

If you feel like planning a Hawaii Vacation and spending your Christmas in Hawaii, find your hotel here.

2.1. Christmas Traditions in Hawaii

2.1.1. Christmas Trees are Decorated Differently in Hawaii

The island’s tropical climate is not ideal for growing gorgeous traditional Christmas trees, i.e., pine trees. Christmas without a Christmas tree would be incomplete.

But do you remember Christmas in Hawaii is different? The locals have found a way through this—elaborate decorations with the fir trees.

The locals also decorate Christmas palm trees to avoid losing the Christmas vibes. Real Christmas trees also come to Hawaii but arrive on ships in refrigerated containers.

Hawaii locals often light up their vehicles and trucks to welcome the festive season. It is done for an unplanned holiday parade and for roadside spectators to vibe on the Christmas songs while driving through the towns.

The yearly Lights on Rice festival, which takes place in Lihue in the first week of December, offers a more ceremonial parade experience on Kauai.

2.1.2. Christmas Carols Are Sung with Guitars and Ukuleles

One of the other core holiday traditions without which Christmas feels incomplete is the Christmas Songs in Hawaii Christmas event.

The Hawaiians sing their versions of the Christmas carol on guitars and ukuleles. Hawaiians have unique Christmas tunes.

Songs are sung in the Hawaiian language during all the family feasts. This family feast eventually becomes a sing-a-long, and how can you forget about the hula dance?

The traditional Hawaii holiday season sounds much more fun than the usual one.

2.1.3. Santa’s Sledge Doesn’t Have Reindeer

Hawaii has a variety of species when it comes to dolphins. This helps the Hawaiians to add a creative element to Christmas in Hawaii.

Santa Claus does not arrive with Reindeer. Well, what else would he come in? Santa arrives in an outrigger canoe, which Dolphins pull.

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The elves also wear an aloha and festive Hawaiian shirt, similar to Santa Claus.

There are several chances to visit Santa in person over Christmas. Children go to Waikiki Beach in the early days of December to see Santa come on a paddle boat and to have their pictures taken.

Other Santa-centered events may incorporate Hawaiian elements like leis decorated with holiday ornaments, beachside carol singing, or visits from elves with festive aloha shirts and Santa hats.

2.1.4. Wishes

Do you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays on Christmas?

Christmas in Hawaii is incomplete without wishing Mele Kalikimaka. This is said to wish people a fantastic festive season.

During travels to Hawaii to celebrate Christmas Day, shopping is a must. Have you been influenced to visit Hawaii yet or not?

2.1.5. Gifts

If you search for unique gifts, you can’t miss the opportunity to shop from the Big Island, one of the Hawaiian Islands.

The big Hawaiian island has many gift options; be cautious, as you might get confused.

One can go by yacht or canoe and enjoy whale watching or reindeer pulling. Blooming Poinsettias make it a perfect winter wonderland.

The capital of Hawaii and the largest city organizes many Christmas events. It starts with the best Honolulu City Lights.

The Honolulu City Light event, in simple words, is an incredible light display.

Hawaii Christmas Honolulu Hale Christmas Tree Displays Oahu Hawaii

At Honolulu Hale, they have a one-month-long Christmas decoration and light display known as the Honolulu City Lights. The exhibition is organized at the Honolulu Hale, 530 South King Street.

You’ll see the things on display: Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele, a Christmas tree that is fully decorated and is 50 feet away.

You will also see the Honolulu Hale beautifully decorated with the season’s special decoration items.

2.2. Christmas in Hawaii

Christmas is not only a day in Hawaii; it would not be justified to call it a Christmas day, as it is an entire season.

2.2.1. Two-day Christmas

Yes, you read it right; it’s the Christmas season. From Christmas morning to Christmas Eve, Hawaii is decorated as if there is a significant family function, and the whole of Hawaii is one family.

Many churches also host Christmas Eve candlelight services to end your day on a serene note. Even the restaurants serve special buffets on Christmas Eve with Christmas cookies.

2.2.2. Christmas Parades

Aloha Christmas parades and concerts are organized in early and mid-December because these days lead to Christmas Day.

Moreover, Santa likely may not be wearing shoes, so he may distribute gifts to Hawaiian island youngsters while enjoying the sensation of smooth sand between his toes.

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2.2.3. Christmas Food

Any festival is incomplete without food, and when it comes to Hawaiian food, you can’t miss the food, which is famous for its fresh and tropical flavors.

Old and contemporary customs are mixed for the Christmas feast. The Thanksgiving dinner on Christmas stands out, serving you turkey with sticky rice, poke bowls, and tropical fruits. Did you drool?

Kalua Pig is the quintessential Hawaiian Christmas supper, a whole roasted pig covered with banana leaves and hot rocks.

Despite the lengthy cooking time, the kalua pig is a welcome substitute for turkey or ham because of its tender, melt-in-your-mouth feel.

Christmas in Hawaii means you need to taste fantastic food. Your menu for the day will be -sticky rice, sushi, Kalua Pig, Halo, Poke, Lumpia, Tamales, and Sashimi, which will all be cooked in an underground oven.

As we know, Christmas dinner is incomplete without dessert so that you may find Coconut Pudding and cookies in the stores by the beach.

Once you’ve had all the Christmas delights you can handle, a trip to the beach is a simple way to burn them off.

2.2.4. The Climate

Hawaii has become one of the most popular vacation spots for many people.

The place has the temperature you want to relax; you may call it the perfect temperature.

The rainy season in Hawaii is not very predictable, but December is the month that receives the most rainfall among the other months.

But it’s not much of an issue because the rain falls for about 10 minutes and not more than that.

The evenings in Hawaii during the month can be frigid, so don’t forget to pack your sweater with you. Christmas to New Year is the most expensive time to visit Hawaii.

2.2.5. Vacation

December is one of those seasons in Hawaii which has a lot of rainfall and tourists. But this doesn’t mean that it will not cost you much.

If you travel to Hawaii in December, you should be prepared for the burden it will put on your pocket.

Oahu is the cheapest Hawaiian island to plan a holiday in Hawaii during Christmas. It is affordable, holds the most Christmas events, and is the least crowded.

The average annual hotel stay may cost around $250, but when you visit Hawaii during Christmas, this charge may rise to about $335. So be prepared because spending Christmas in Hawaii may trouble your budget.


Spending Christmas in Hawaii is possibly one of the best ways to understand the culture of Hawaii, and the pleasantly warm weather with fantastic food will make your trip even better.

You will never have to think about what to do next because Hawaii has many options to entertain you. Merry Christmas!

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USA Tales

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Sathi Chakraborty


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