Since 2011, Koloa Landing Resort has been a proud part of the Poipu Beach community and has welcomed both guests and new residents alike to the lifestyle of Kauai island. As the holiday season arrives, and we see the completion of our third phase on the horizon, we thought we would share with guests and friends alike a few of the traditions in Hawaii for Christmas that makes the experience so unique to these islands.
Christmas Tree Ships
For long-time residents, any mention of the Christmas tree ships brings back unique memories of our Hawaiian childhood. Being a tropical island, growing traditional pine trees here is a bit of a challenge, though that doesn’t stop some locals from trying! For most of us, though, if we want a real, genuine Christmas tree, we all know that certain ships arrive to make our wishes come true.
Back in the day, this originally meant one ship and a lot of competition between locals for precious trees. These days, Hawaiians enjoy multiple shipments of trees, at least four throughout the season. If you absolutely, positively NEED to have a Douglas fir to hang your lights on, this is the way we all do it.
Continental Americans enjoy turkey at Thanksgiving, and for Americans that have grown up in Hawaii, Christmas means the Kalua Pig. Kalua style cooking is the stuff of old family recipes, and doing it the old-fashioned way involves using an “Imu” or an underground oven, to get just the right flavor and texture. This means digging out a pit, and exercising a lot of patience, because if you want this done right, the pig will roast for several hours in the pit along with hot rocks and banana leaves.
But any Hawaiian will tell you that when you sit down on Christmas day with a plate of this pig in front of you and take that first bite, the wait and the effort are completely worth it.
A 100% indigenous tradition that predates even the arrival of Christianity to the islands, Makahiki is a four-month long celebration based on the lunar calendar. It starts in October or November and continues on until February or March. Because Christmas falls in the middle of the Makahiki celebrations, it’s now a part of the tradition.
Makahiki is a celebration of the bounty of the Hawaiian Islands, and the local god, Lono. In a sense, it’s like a four month long, “Thanksgiving season.” In earlier, tribal days, local chiefs would all observe a ceasefire on any local, tribal warfare to ensure that everyone could celebrate Makahiki, and that images of Lono that traveled around the island would not be damaged or profaned.
Today, Christmas and the Aloha Festivals are all integrated into this period of celebration, so it’s turned into quite a mix of modern and traditional ritual for people interested in seeing a very different side of the holiday season.
Season’s Greetings Our Way
They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and when you’re in Hawaii, you can have a lot of fun doing what we do, especially during the holiday season. Most people are used to saying “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays,” but anyone that’s grown up around here says—and hears—the phrase “Mele Kalikimaka” at this time of year.
The greeting, literally translated, actually does mean “Merry Christmas.” However, most Hawaiian dialects didn’t have a phonetic equivalent to the letter “R” or “S” in their speech, so this was the dialect equivalent. The phrase really took off after Robert Anderson wrote a song about it in 1949, and then Bing Crosby did a cover of that song a year later.
The Honolulu Hale Christmas Tree
In New York, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is an annual tradition. And for over 30 years, we’ve watched our own Christmas tree go up and light up at Honolulu Hale—the Hawaiian equivalent of city hall.
If you’re on the island, and you want to see how things are done in the capital, it’s always an interesting opportunity to take advantage of what Honolulu offers while you’re there to see the holidays from the perspective of a very different city.
If you’re planning to get away from the frigid cold in other parts of America and enjoy a little South Pacific heat and hospitality this holiday season, Koloa Landing Resort welcomes you. Enjoy our rooms, enjoy the beach, enjoy Hawaii, and, most important of all, enjoy a happy holiday with people you care about.