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How to Celebrate the Holidays in Hawaii

Honolulu Hale during Christmas Photo: InSaphhoWeTrust (Flickr)

Photo: InSaphhoWeTrust (Flickr).

Sometimes when families plan a trip during the holidays, they don’t realize how much they will miss the traditions that so often characterize the Christmas season.  If you and your family plan to enjoy the holidays in Hawaii this year or next, here are some fun ways to keep the spirit of the season present in your home away from home.

Decorate: Whether you have set up camp in a condo with your whole family, or you each have a separate hotel room, deck the halls with some festive highlights like Christmas candles, mistletoe, or some green-leaf leis instead of wreaths. Take decorations to the next level by going to get a little Christmas tree for the condo, or string cranberries and native leaves for a table centerpiece. Nothing will help make the season bright like having a sparkling lights to bring some shimmer to the dark tropical nights.

Go to a parade: Every island rings in the holiday season with festive parades and community craft nights running from Thanksgiving Weekend until the New Year. On each island the streets are merry with Christmas elves, singers, dancers, and brilliantly lit Christmas trees. Wherever you are vacationing, find the closest Christmas parade near you and go enjoy a hot cup of cocoa with the rest of locals and visitors to Hawaii.

Have a Christmas cookie bake off: Everyone loves to sample Christmas cookies, so make your classic traditions choices like your Swedish Grandma’s cardamom cookies, and add new Hawaiian flavors to the mix. If you are looking for creative ideas and local recipes, attend one of the culinary tours to get a glimpse at the best restaurants and dishes on the island. Why not try making your own malasadas for Christmas dinner? Don’t just bake cookies, get the whole family to make a dish for Christmas dinner and add a new Hawaiian side to your traditional feast such as macadamia nut stuffing or lomi salmon.  It’s the season for some haupia at the end of a meal, or perhaps some slow-cooked kalua pig instead of ham as the main course. Have a gingerbread house competition! Split every one into teams and build Hawaiian huts out of gingerbread for a fun spin on this classic Christmas tradition. Then use dried coconut, mango and a sprig of sugar cane to make a mini palm tree to go with the gingerbread villages.

Make your own adventures: Think outside the box this season, and come up with creative ways to make this holiday celebration special. Pick 5 or 6 classic songs, and going caroling in a nearby neighborhood as a family. Or go have some fun outside: find the easternmost beach and go for a sunrise walk on New Year’s Day. Have you ever gone snorkeling on Christmas? After the presents are open, step out of the norm, and go free-diving or snorkeling down at one of the island’s hot spots. Better yet, pretend you are the Hawaiian Santa who rides on a kayak, and go beach kayaking with the whole family! The family that plays together, stays together.

Send some tropical love: Visit a local shop, and find some note cards painted with paintings, sketches, photography or prints of a Hawaiian artist. Then send out an authentic Hawaiian-designed Christmas card to your friends and family members. You will be supporting creative local artists, and your friends with have a stand-out adornment for their Christmas card table. If you have the privilege of being on Molokai, you can always send a coconut to anyone in the world for free, through their Post-a-Nut service. That way everyone can enjoy a gift from the islands!

Volunteer: Part of the excitement in being away from home for the holidays, is that you can make room for new traditions and adventures. It is easy to remember that other people in the world face hardships, even in a tropical paradise. Being outside of your milieu and the numerous distractions of home, get back to the real spirit of the season, and join with your family to give back to the community. Get in touch with a local church and find how you can help them for a day with their outreach or care programs. You might find your family smiling and laughing together while serving soup at a homeless shelter on Christmas morning, teaming with meals-on-wheels to do holiday dinner drop-offs, or helping put gift bags together for low-income families. Giving is a gift to the giver.

Buy unique Hawaii goods: Enjoy being in Hawaii, and choose gifts that hint of the islands. Whether that is a necklace of freshwater pearls, or wooden spoons with carvings of honu (green sea turtle), an aloha shirt or find Hawaiian designed gifts like jewelry or pottery made by local artisans. There are numerous art galleries on every island to find memorabilia and beautiful Hawaiian-made art work.

Give a Memory:   Instead of piling packages under the tree, why not give your family the gift of unforgettable memories? Treat your wife to a day of massage therapy at one of the elite Hawaiian spas. Better yet- get a couples treatment and spend a day relaxing together to the sound of the waves. Take your brother or sister on a helicopter ride, or out on the jet skis, or on a dolphin cruise to see some beautiful marine life up close. You could give someone a surf lesson, or heat up your holidays by getting tickets to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see live lava in action! There abundant activities to do on vacation in Hawaii!


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  • Hawaii's Best 2011
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