When you hear people talking about Christmas, Hawaii is definitely not the first place most think about. Warm weather, sun drenched beach goers, and palm trees adorned with ornaments just don't scream holidays to the majority. The'Hawaiian-style' Christmas starts as soon as the last piece of turkey is eaten on Thanksgiving. Christmas trees are shipped over well in advance for the islanders. Many even grow some a few steps from their back door. The more creative like to decorate the island staple, palm tree. Santa Claus's sleigh and reindeer are replaced with an outrigger canoe and dolphins. You can find the Hawaiian Santa wearing swim shorts and aloha shirt with of course no shoes. Dinner is a community luau with a kalua roast pig usually located at the beach or in back yards.
Christmas on the islands wasn’t formally introduced to Hawaii until after 1820; the year Protestant missionaries came to Hawaii from New England. In ancient times, however, the holiday coincided with a traditional Hawaiian festival called Makahiki. This celebration lasted for four months and included great feasts and games. During this time, wars and conflicts were strictly forbidden. As far as the early Hawaiians were concerned, the Makahiki was their time for “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”
The first Christmas celebration in Hawaii is believed to have occurred in 1786, when Captain George Dixon, docked aboard the Queen Charlotte in Waimea Bay on Kauai, commanded his crew to prepare a Christmas dinner that included roasted pig, pie and grog mixed with coconut milk. The English navigator then led his men in toasts to their families and friends back home.
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.
Experiencing Christmas on the islands is sure to be a treat for all ages. Seeing Santa riding in a canoe instead of a sleigh, now that's a memory we recommend.