Ringing in the holidays, Hawaiian style

Hawaii Stories


Ringing in the Holidays ... Hawaiian-style

Balmy and beautiful even during the winter, Hawaii ushers in Christmas and New Year’s festivities

honolulu city lights
Here are a dozen events statewide that the whole family will enjoy. Dates and times are subject to change, so be sure to confirm them before you go.


The Waikiki Holiday Parade takes you from one holiday to the next literally overnight.

Set each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 27 this year), it heralds the start of the Christmas season on Oahu while honoring survivors of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and other World War II veterans.


Photo credit: Gateway Music Festivals & Tours

The festive Waikiki Holiday Parade makes its way down Kalakaua Avenue on the day after Thanksgiving.

Traversing the route from Fort DeRussy to Kapiolani Park beginning at 7 p.m. will be military units, hula dancers, local and Mainland bands and decorated vehicles carrying Honolulu dignitaries.

The parade was founded in 1998 by Jake Peppers, who was the marketing director for the Hula Bowl, a post-season collegiate football game in Honolulu in the late 1980s. Although he now lives in Townsend, Tennessee, he continues to help organize the Waikiki Holiday Parade, inviting bands from high schools and colleges across the country to participate and learn valuable lessons in U.S. and Hawaiian history.

At Ward Village, you’ll experience “Mele Kalikimaka” in a big way!

Santa’s Beach House will be open daily except Thanksgiving from November 21 through December 24, providing a colorful backdrop for photos with jolly Saint Nick.

Pets will even get their chance to do this on November 21 and 22 during Santa Paws, a fundraiser for the Hawaiian Humane Society.

Photo credit: Ward Village

In the evening from December 6-30, the Honolulu City Lights Trolley Tours cruise past Ward Village’s Holiday Light Show and the dazzling displays in downtown Honolulu.

You can also look forward to concerts every weekend in December and the Keiki Courtyard Cinema on December 16, where a sing-along version of the Disney blockbuster Frozen will be screened. This event starts at sunset with educational activities led by staffers from the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center.

In the Islands, there’s no need for Rudolph and his reindeer friends because Santa arrives by outrigger canoe!


Photo credit: Hugh Gentry

Bring your camera to the beach fronting the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort at 9 a.m. on December 12 and the Halekulani hotel at 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve to snap “only-in-Hawaii” photos to show your friends and family.


Photo credit: Halekulani

At the Halekulani, Santa’s helpers will pass out candy canes to the kids, and his appearance at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort will include a keiki (children’s) hula performance and complimentary photos with visitors in the lobby.

It’ll be easy to find the opening-night activities for Honolulu City Lights on December 5: Just look for crowds of people with big smiles!


Photo credit: Hawaiian Airlines

Food booths and carnival rides will open at 4 p.m. surrounding Sky Gate (the abstract 24-foot-high steel sculpture near Honolulu Hale, the city’s government seat).

At 6 p.m., the Electric Light Parade of floats, marching bands and decorated city vehicles (including a bus, an ambulance and a refuse truck) will start making its way from Aala Park to Honolulu Hale.

There, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will flip on the lights adorning a towering Christmas tree at 6:30 p.m., and exhibits of beautiful wreaths and trees will open. The evening will wrap up with a 7:30 p.m. concert at Sky Gate by the popular band Kapena.

Several other Honolulu City Lights events are planned, including an ornament-making activity (December 12, 6 p.m., Civic Center grounds on the east side of Honolulu Hale), picture-taking with Santa (December 18 and 23, 7 p.m., Honolulu Hale courtyard) and a movie night (December 19, 7 p.m., Civic Center grounds).

Come New Year’s, usher in the Year of the Monkey at the Ohana Festival in Moiliili from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on January 10.

Activities at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii include demonstrations of bonsai, origami, karate, kendo, the tea ceremony and kumihimo (Japanese braiding).

There will also be a craft fair, bake sale and free admission to the Okage Sama De historical gallery.

At nearby Moiliili Neighborhood Park (1115 Isenberg Street), the celebration will continue with keiki games and inflatables/bouncers, mochitsuki (mochi-pounding) demonstrations and food booths selling goodies such as sushi, Waffle Dogs and okonomiyaki, Japanese pancakes containing a variety of savory ingredients).

Taiko and Japanese and Okinawan dance groups will perform at both locations. 


Photo Credit: Brian Y. Sato/Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii


In 1924, Maui banker Charles Dexter Lufkin built a lovely two-story clapboard house with 10-foot ceilings, beveled glass doors and ohia and eucalyptus wood floors as a wedding gift for his new daughter-in-law.

On the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places, the house is now an award-winning bed-and-breakfast that proprietors Tom and Janice Fairbanks named the Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono.

Lei of Aloha is the annual fundraiser the couple holds at the inn for the Pau O Hiiaka halau hula (hula school).

On December 5 from 1 to 4 p.m., visitors can tour the historic home and enjoy music, hula performances, poetry readings and lei-making demonstrations.

Etched glassware, lilikoi (passion fruit) butter and handmade lauhala ornaments will be among the many gifts for purchase; browse as you nibble on ono (delicious) homemade refreshments, including Janice’s famous chicken salad. Tickets are $30 per person.

Upcountry Maui is the place to be on December 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. That’s when MauiWine will host its second annual Holiday Tree Lighting at Ulupalakua on its beautiful, tree-shaded grounds.

The event will begin with the lighting of a 22-foot-tall pine, followed by a family-friendly movie (to be announced) under the stars.

Also planned are live music, activities for the kids and beverages and treats for purchase prepared by Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill.

Admission is free, but please bring a can of non-perishable food as a donation for the Maui Food Bank. And don’t forget your jacket as Upcountry nights can get very chilly.


Normally laid-back Lihue will leap to life at 6:30 p.m. on December 4, when the Lights on Rice Parade delights spectators lined up along Rice Street, the town’s main artery.

More than 60 units with 2,000 participants will be sharing holiday cheer this year — the most ever.

The parade ends at the Historic County Building (4396 Rice Street), where there will be caroling, entertainment, a craft fair, food booths, photos with Santa and the Festival of Lights, a whimsical exhibit of ornaments, figures and decorated trees primarily made from discards; for example, bottle caps, egg cartons, Styrofoam cups, Spam cans and plastic water bottles.

It will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays through Sundays in December as well as on Christmas Eve and December 26.

Over on the west side, the town of Waimea plans a memorable celebration of its own.

The Waimea Lighted Christmas Parade begins at 6:15 p.m. on December 19. It’s a joyous grassroots event; floats created by families are just as fun and elaborate as the ones sponsored by businesses.

Arrive early to check out the gift items, ornaments and fresh wreaths for sale.

Food booths will be selling yummy local favorites that this community is known for: smoked meat, hulihuli chicken roasted on a rotisserie (huli means “turn”) and the flying saucer, a bun filled with a sloppy joe-and-cheese mixture that you’ll find only on Kauai.

The after-parade party at Hofgaard Park will feature Wally Rita and the Los Kauaians playing kachi-kachi dance music until midnight. Kachi-kachi is a term Japanese immigrants coined to describe the scratchy sound produced by the guiro, a Puerto Rican percussion instrument.


Now in its 55th year, the Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade brings the whole community together to celebrate a Kold Kountry Christmas (that theme isn’t misspelled — it’s a play on words: Waimea is cold during the holiday season).