Christmas in Hawai‘i: 5 Reasons to Celebrate Island Style

Posted in: Culture & History, Events, Food & Drink, Things to Do


Visitors want to know: how does Hawai‘i celebrate Christmas? What do Christmas parades and other holiday traditions look like?

Santa Snow Globe on a Beach

Christmas in Hawai‘i

Reality is sometimes even better than imagination...especially after you glimpse Santa in a Hawaiian shirt!

We have put together a list of reasons why we cherish the holiday season here on the islands.  Continue reading, and you might get some ideas for your next Hawai‘i family vacation!

First Thing’s First: Trade the SNOW for the SAND!

The holidays in Hawai‘i are not defined by snow, sleigh rides, Yule logs and roasted chestnuts. However, that doesn’t make the holiday season here any less festive! Put aside your preconceived notions of what the holidays are “supposed” to be like. Here in Hawai‘i, you’ll find that the season is just as joyous as anywhere else, if not more so.

hand holding two candy canes in the shape of a heart on the beach with lights in the background

Why We Love Hawai‘i During the Holidays

Here are five great reasons why we love our holiday traditions:


Sure, other states have Christmas parades, but not many places have parades in December where you don’t have to bundle up in coats and gloves! Shorts, slippers and marching bands without frostbitten fingers are the norm here. By the way, this also means that we get to comfortably enjoy fireworks on New Year's, too! 

Reason 2: Lights, lights and more lights!

There are plenty of light shows to attend during the holidays including the Electric Light Parade and Honolulu City Lights in Downtown Honolulu. There is also the Kauai Festival of Lights in addition to the suburban light shows in Kāne‘ohe, Waikele and other neighborhoods around the state. Wherever you are, there’s no shortage of wattage on display!

Reason 3: We’ve got our own Christmas song!

Sure, the classics are fun, especially when they’re performed with a local twist,. However,  it just isn’t Christmas until you hear “Mele Kalikimaka”! The most famous version was recorded by Bing Crosby but it's been covered by countless other artists, including Bette Midler, Jimmy Buffet and The Monkees.

Reason 4: Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele (Santa and Mrs. Claus) always join us for the festivities!

Shaka Santa takes his boots off and Tutu Mele dresses in her finest mu‘umu‘u and Hawaiian jewelry. It wouldn’t be Christmas on the Islands without them!

Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele in Hawaii

Reason 5: Nobody—and I mean nobody—does food like Hawai‘i does food.

A local holiday feast may or may not involve a traditional Christmas ham or turkey, but you’ll also get to enjoy a spread that's sure to include local favorites like roast pork, sushi, poke, noodles, gandules rice, chicken katsu, konbu maki, kal bi, pastele stew, crab wontons, assorted casseroles and a dozen different salads and sides.

Don’t forget to save room for dessert! Dobash cake, mochi, malasadas, sweet bread, butter mochi, haupia, kulolo, custard pie... mmmm… and if you’re lucky, Aunty will make her pumpkin crunch bars this year!

BONUS: In Hawai‘i, the festivities go on forever!

Holiday events kick-off in earnest with Thanksgiving in November and won’t really slow down here until the Chinese New Year in February. There’s nothing like firecrackers and lion dancing to tie up four months of pretty much non-stop partying!

So hereʻs the bottom line:

The season means different things to different people and it’s celebrated in as many ways as there are days in the year. In the end, it’s a time of joy and goodwill to be shared with those you care about. That’s the one constant that holds true whether or not you have a roaring fireplace on a snowy Christmas Day or gorgeous weather on the beach.

Here are some articles on Hawai’i holiday celebrations that you might enjoy:

Need help planning your next memorable Hawai’i vacation?

The staff at This Week Hawaii have a passion for helping vacationers and locals find their aloha.  It’s more than just an itinerary to us. Here are some extra resources on trip planning, Hawai’i vacation ideas, and special things to do in Hawai’i for everyone, no matter if you’re a visitor or a long-time member of our ohana.

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