Christmas has always been a long-standing tradition among millions of people around the world. It involves Santa dressed in red and riding a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Snow-capped pine trees. Snowmen in front of people’s homes. Families sitting by a warm cozy fireplace with hot chocolate. And let’s not forget the traditional turkey and dressing dinner that everyone enjoys.
But in Hawaii, it’s a different story. There’s certainly no snow to speak of. And you can forget about the fireplaces. Let’s go to the beach and roast a pig and have a Christmas luau. We still hear the traditional Christmas songs here in the islands but with a Hawaiian twist and some ukulele in the background.
But how did it all start? Let’s take a trip back to the early years before Hawaii became a state. The time when it was still its own kingdom.
Christmas was not always celebrated in Hawaii. The islanders had their own celebration that coincided around the same time as Christmas. It was a festival called Makahiki and lasted around three to four months. It usually began around October/November and ended around February/March.
Makahiki was considered to be the start of the fall harvest. It was also a time in which wars and conflicts among the Hawaiians were strictly forbidden. They were to focus their time on “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”
During the four months of celebration, the Hawaiians participated in a number of games and sports. These were to test their strength and speed. And the victors were often heralded through the islands. Other tests involved sportsmanship, food gathering, and quick thinking. Some of the games were spear throwing, tug of war, lawn bowling, and different variations of arm wrestling.
In 1786, the first-ever Christmas celebration occurred in Hawaii. An Englishman by the name of Captain George Dixon docked his ship in Waimea Bay on Kauai. He then ordered his crew to prepare a Christmas dinner. It included roasted pig, pie and rum mixed with coconut milk.
From the years 1820 and following, there were various missionaries and evangelists who came to the islands bringing their own views and traditions of Christmas. King Kamehameha IV declared December 25, 1856, to be a national day of Thanksgiving. And the first Christmas tree in Hawaii stood on the royal grounds in 1858.
Christmas finally became an official Hawaiian holiday in 1862.
Image by: Hawaii Magazine