New Year Traditions in Hawaii
Community is a fundamental part of life, and it is something we all experience at least once in our lifetime. Whether you are surrounded by family or choose to live alone, the ties that bind us together are what make us who we are. This is why it is important to know your traditions and celebrate them with the people you love!
When traveling, it is fun to immerse yourself in the culture of the place you visit. You will get a chance to experience things and experiences that you might not otherwise have access to. And, if you are open to the idea, it can be an opportunity to learn about other cultures, which is an important part of appreciating the world around us.
If you haven’t been to Hawaii before, you might be surprised at the vast variety of people and cultures that are gathered here. To give you some background, back in 1852, Hawaii was booming with sugar plantations. This presented a workforce opportunity that attracted the Chinese to move to Hawaii and work.
Spending New Year in Hawaii
In Hawaii, New Year traditions are based on the ancient rituals of the Makahiki season. The season is a four-month period that usually begins mid-November and lasts until late January or February. The Makahiki season marks the beginning of the Hawaiian new year. Thus, this is when the locals would pray for the land’s prosperity, coinciding with heavy rains and storms.
Hawaii also has a New Year’s eve countdown where people can gather and enjoy a beautiful fireworks display. But apart from these usual practices, there are more interesting Hawaiian new year traditions, and they are listed below:
First Day Hike
Welcoming the New Year with a glorious hike to the Makapuu Lighthouse is one of the most popular Hawaiian New Year traditions. This unique version of the New Year’s celebration allows families and friends to enjoy the lovely scenery of Hawaii while exercising and connecting with nature. There might also be a chance to see humpback whales breaching in the ocean below.
There are several ways to go to the Makapuu Lighthouse. You can rent a car, commute, or book a hidden gems Oahu tour with Go Tours Hawaii to drive past the scenic lookout. This excursion will also bring you to two of the most sought-after tourist attractions in Hawaii–the Waimea Botanical Garden and Byodo-In Temple.
Additional highlights of Go Tours Hawaii’s Hidden Gems Tour are Diamond Head, Halona Blowhole, Hawaiian Coffee and Macadamia Nut Tastings, the North Shore, and so much more. To learn more about this tour, you can check our website at www.gotourshawaii.com.
Fireworks to Scare Off Evil Spirits
Lighting up fireworks to ward off evil spirits is a tradition that originated in China during the seventh century. It is believed that these beautiful displays of lights are meant to scare off evil spirits.
In a Chinese legend, a monster called Nian would come out every New Year’s eve to eat villagers and destroy their houses. In an attempt to drive the beast away, the villagers discovered that burning dry bamboo to produce an explosive sound scared away the monster. Since then, it has become a tradition for the Chinese New Year.
Later on, this tradition was passed on to other countries, including Hawaii. But more than the belief in warding off evil spirits, lighting fireworks became a custom to enhance the festive atmosphere during the New Year.
Hawaiian locals love fireworks so much that they prepare a fireworks show at Waikiki beach. This event draws tourists and locals to visit the district every year. Fiery aerial designs of palm trees, colorful strobes, and sparkling fan formations are some of the displays you can see if you visit Oahu this season.
Fukubukuro (Lucky Bag)
Fukubukuro is another Japanese New Year tradition that has become popular in Hawaii. Merchants create grab bags filled with random content and sell them for substantial discounts, typically 50% or more off the list price of the contained items.
This tradition is becoming more and more popular every year. Some of the most prominent shopping centers that sell Fukubukuro are Ala Moana Center, International Marketplace, and Royal Hawaiian Center.
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous flour, water, sugar, and cornstarch. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into your desired shape. This process requires at least two people–one person to pound the rice with a bid wooden hammer or usu and another to roll and wet it to the right consistency. The dessert is then hand molded, which is seen as a symbol of good luck for the New Year.
In Hawaii, mochi pounding is a tradition done every New Year. Making this glutinous dessert is a practice that was brought to Hawaii by Japanese immigrants during the early 19th century.
Mochi is also an ingredient for Ozoni, a Japanese New Year soup served during this festive season. Ozoni is enjoyed by family & friends as they pray for health, prosperity, happiness, and a good life. Each ingredient of the soup has a special meaning:
- Mochi represents longevity due to its stretchy texture
- Local produce such as carrots, daikon and spinach represent a bountiful harvest.
- Chicken meat represents success.
- Fish roe represents fertility.
- Lotus roots (renkon) represent the wheel of life
Eating Sashimi and Kalua Pig
The popular sliced raw fish or sashimi is a famous good luck food that the locals of Hawaii must have to celebrate the New Year. It’s considered a premium ‘appetizer(s)’ also known as “pupu(s)”. During this time of the year, the demand for high-quality sashimi (tuna, salmon, mackerel, squid, or octopus) skyrockets to as much as $40 per pound.
Another food that many Hawaiians eat during the New Year is the Kalua Pig. It is a tender shredded pork cooked in an underground pit, which is quite laborious to put together. Many Hawaiians serve this dish for other special occasions in Hawaii.
Exchanging of Flower Lei Garlands
A lei is one of the most famous symbols of Hawaii. It has become an emblem of love, friendship, celebration, honor, or greeting–basically, it is a symbol of Aloha. In ancient Hawaii, the lei represents wealth, royalty, and rank. It is also associated with hula, religion, and geography.
During New Year, one of the traditions in Hawaii is exchanging flower lei garlands. These garlands can be made of dozens of colors. Some are made from feathers or colored shells. Wearing these beautiful and colorful garlands symbolizes a connection to nature and closeness with a partner.
Celebrate New Year Joyfully with Go Tours Hawaii
New Year, if not the most, is one of the happiest celebrations around the world. Spending time with your family and friends in a place as beautiful as Hawaii can be the most beautiful memory you can have. Because of this, people try their best to fill this season with nothing but happiness and excitement.
However, planning an itinerary can be a little overwhelming, especially during the New Year. This is where Go Tours Hawaii comes in.
We are a local tour operator specializing in Oahu tours. With different tours on our list, you can easily choose a destination your whole family can enjoy. You can visit our website at www.gotourshawaii.com to learn more about our excursions.
You can also find out more about us by reading the following articles:
The Hidden Gems of Oahu, Hawaii
Things to Pack on your Hawaiian Vacation