When a traditional Christmas comes to mind, Hawaii just might be the last place you would consider.
The holiday began as a festival, introduced to the islands sometime after 1820, the year Protestant missionaries came to Hawaii from New England.
Before this new celebration, the Hawaiian people celebrated Makahiki. The Makahiki season is the ancient Hawaiian New Year festival, in honor of the god Lono of the Hawaiian religion. It is a holiday celebrating the bounty of the land, lasting four consecutive lunar months, approximately from October through February.
During this time, commoners stopped work, made offerings to the chief or aliʻi, and then spent their time practicing sports, feasting, dancing and renewing communal bonds. In the four lunar months of the Makahiki season, warfare was forbidden, which was used as a ritually inscribed means to assure that nothing would adversely affect the new crops.
In the Aloha State, you won’t find thick blankets of snow, unless you head to lofty summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. During winter, it is not uncommon to see a white top on Mauna Kea while driving along Queen Kahahumanu highway, the coast road that connects Kona to Kohala.
In 1856, Alexander Liholiho (King Kamehameha IV) declared December 25 to be his kingdom’s national day of Thanksgiving. Two years later, Santa Claus made his first appearance in Hawaii, arriving at Washington Place (now the governor’s residence) to deliver gifts for the children.
Today, there’s no celebration more memorable than Christmas and the “Honolulu City Lights,” a favorite holiday spectacle put on by the City & County of Honolulu. Held at Honolulu Hale (City Hall), “Honolulu City Lights” features a 50-foot Norfolk pine Christmas tree, elaborate Christmas tree and wreath exhibits, giant Yuletide displays and live entertainment. Whether you’re young or young at heart, there’s no better place to catch the Christmas spirit in the islands.
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