The festival began decades ago when Auntie Josie Chansky began making a lasting impact on the community where she lived by turning “trash” into Christmas treasure. Her decorations and ornaments became staples in her small town – Auntie Josie was known for creating Christmas décor from items like styrofoam, metal cans, plastic bottles, egg cartons, and more. But one of her creations from toothpicks may be the most famous of all: a hand-crafted Christmas tree made from 7,500 green toothpicks!

Auntie Josie was welcoming to all. Every Christmas season, she would open her house to the town for all to enjoy. People who saw her Christmas crafts when they were children came back years later to show their own kids what they grew up loving and appreciating. As the years went by, Auntie Josie’s house became known as “the Christmas house.”

Kauai Festival of Lights History

In 1996, Auntie Josie began selling her handmade decorations after her husband died. She realized she would no longer be able to keep up the tradition by herself. And then the spirit of Christmas took over: Auntie Josie’s entire collection was bought and then donated to the County of Kauai.

Auntie Josie died in 2009, but not before being recognized and honored for her tender spirit and love of sharing her Christmas treasures with all of Kauai. Today, Auntie Josie’s folk art remains the staple of the annual Festival of Lights.

More than 5,000 people attend opening night (Dec. 4) of the festival with the Lights on Rice (Street) Parade. The festival is always free to attend and is open to the public every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 6-­8 p.m. at the Historic County Building. The festival is also open on Christmas Eve and on Dec. 26 from 6-­8 p.m.

To kick off the celebration and lighting displays, local choir groups will sing Christmas carols, activities for kids will be available, plus a bake sale, silent auction, food vendors, an appearance by Santa, and more. Don’t forget your camera because the lighting display is the perfect Christmas background for your family photo.

Our friendly Koloa Landing® staff recommends you don’t miss this beautiful tradition. We are happy to answer any questions you have about Auntie Josie or the 19th annual Kauai Festival of Lights. Call us at 808-240-6600.