Hawaii Christmas Festivals

Celebrations that put some island style into the holiday season


Christmas is a big deal in Hawaii. Sure, there are some differences in the Aloha State. You may see Santa and the elves dressed in hula shirts and board shorts, and an outrigger canoe may replace the sleigh. But overall, there’s plenty of holiday cheer to be found at festivals and seasonal happenings all across the islands. Here are some of the favorites.

Waikiki Holiday Parade

For nearly two decades, Hawaii’s season of holiday festivals has kicked off with the Waikiki Holiday Parade. Staged on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day, this parade commemorates the attacks of December 7, 1941 on Pearl Harbor, honoring the memory of survivors and veterans. The procession includes local Hawaiian bands, marching bands from the mainland, military units, local officials and dignitaries, who march down torch-lit Kalakaua Avenue along Waikiki Beach. http://www.waikikiholidayparade.com

Honolulu City Lights

The grandest Christmas celebration in the islands is the annual Honolulu City Lights, which is staged through the month of December. The exhibition kicks off the first week of the month with The Electric Light Parade, which begins at A‘ala Park and runs down King Street through downtown Honolulu to arrive at City Hall. There, a 50-foot Norfolk pine Christmas tree is illuminated, and the festivities continue with a holiday concert, food booths and photos with Santa. The display of lights and holiday decorations remain on display nightly through the end of the year. http://www.honolulucitylights.org/

Kauai Festival of Lights

The island of Kauai puts a unique spin on holiday traditions. Founded to honor the late island personality Auntie Josie, the Festival of Lights showcases Christmas art and decorations created by her and other local artisans, with all pieces made from recycled materials. There is caroling and a visit from Santa opening the exhibit at the county’s Historic Building. Showings continue on weekend nights through Christmas Eve, and the park’s display of holiday lights is lit nightly through the month. http://www.kauaifestivaloflights.com

The Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade

The island of Hawaii hosts the second longest running parade. This year, the island will celebrate its 56th run on December 3, as always, in the parade’s namesake town. This year is themed “Starlight Christmas” and will include a Santa float, dozens of units representing Waimea keiki to kupuna including churches, schools, youth groups, community organizations, farms, ranches and businesses, plus a huge brigade of festively lighted trucks. As always, Santa has promised to again ride in the parade and afterwards, visit with keiki at Parker Ranch Center’s Fireside Food Court.

Kauai Holiday Hula

The Christmas celebration goes tropical on the island of Kauai, where singers, and dancers revive the chants and vigorous energies of traditional hula kahiko, and showcase the melodies and sensuous moments of modern hula auana. This afternoon of performances, food and traditional crafts takes place at the Kauai Marriott Resort on the first weekend in December, with the added enticements of special guests performances, door prizes, and a Christmas ornament contest.

Maui Wine Holiday Tree Lighting

Maui residents can toast in the holiday season with a taste of bubbly while attending Maui Wine’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting celebration on the second week of December. In addition to illuminating a traditional yuletide tree, the evening features live entertainment, holiday crafts, children’s photos with Santa and an evening movie under the stars. https://mauiwine.com/

Snow at the Shops

Though Hawaii’s tallest peaks do get dustings of snow most winters, most islanders stand the best chance of experiencing a white Christmas at Maui’s Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through the month of December, the center is transformed into a giant snow globe twice each night as dustings of snowflakes give shoppers and pedestrians a cool, refreshing reminder of the northern latitudes. http://queenkaahumanucenter.com/

Fireworks on the Beach

On Kauai, residents and visitors gather at Poipu Beach Park on the evening of December 31 to ring out the old and welcome the New Year. The festivities get underway just before sunset, with food trucks, live entertainment, an outdoor movie and, at the stroke of midnight, a grand fireworks display over the water.