Travel blog

Christmas in Hawaii: Holiday Traditions in the Sun

Posted by YMT Vacations on Dec 25, 2017 9:00:00 AM


As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, we long for the return of the sun. Since ancient times, rituals and merrymaking help us replace the chill of the season with the warmth of family and friends. But have you ever wondered how the holidays are celebrated in tropical climates? While most of us associate Christmas and Hanukkah with a roaring fire and a white blanket of snow, in places like Hawaii, folks manage to find the Christmas spirit as easily on the beach as we do gathered around the hearth. Here are some of the winter traditions celebrated in the Hawaiian Islands:


  • Santa Claus arrives for Christmas in a bright-red outrigger canoe instead of a sleigh.
  • Children refer to Santa as Kanakaloka and his reindeer are called Leinekia.
  • Don’t be surprised to find Santa decked out in a Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks riding a surf board onto the beach.
  • Christmas wasn’t celebrated in Hawaii until 1820 when Western missionaries brought the tradition with them to the Islands. Unaccustomed to their dialect, the Hawaiians had a hard time pronouncing “Merry Christmas” and so it became “Mele Kalikimaka” -- a native phrase that rolled more easily off their tongues.
  • Local Norfolk Island pine trees are often decorated with beautiful fresh flowers instead of garland and tinsel. For traditional firs and pine trees, Hawaiians line up at the docks in early December to await the Christmas ship bearing refrigerated containers filled with trees.
  • When families can’t get a fir tree, they often decorate palm trees with bright lights and string ornaments on outdoor hanging plants.
  • Rather than turkey and stuffing, Hawaiians enjoy sticky rice, poke, sashimi, sushi, halo halo, and Kalua pig, which is cooked in an underground oven. The unique array of food represents all the cultures who have made their home in the Islands.
  • The Christmas meal is most often a luau, often at the beach.
  • Instead of cranberries, holiday pies are made with red ohelo berries that grow in the high mountain elevations.
  • Christmas carols are sung to the sounds of ukuleles and slack key guitars while dancers perform the hula.
  • Most homes don’t have fireplaces so stockings are hung throughout the house.

You can explore the magic of a Hawaiian winter for yourself on YMT Vacations’ Ultimate Hawaii Tour with Pearl Harbor Experience. This exciting 13-day journey features the world-famous Waikiki Beach, Volcanoes National Park and the mystical Fern Grotto. Among the six sightseeing tours included on your journey is a moving visit to the USS Arizona Memorial and visitor center at Pearl Harbor. To make your plans to join this once-in-a-lifetime trip, call your travel consultant or YMT Vacations at 1-888-756-9072.



Topics: Hawaii