Incredible Photos of Christmas in Hawai‘i From the Past
Christmas might be over, but these historic photos are everlasting. Take a look back at Christmas in Hawai‘i from 1922 to 1997.
If Christmas spirit means love and good cheer, it may as well be the spirit of aloha turned all the way up. Hawai‘i is no stranger to the sentiments the holidays bring. Here’s a look at Hawai‘i’s Christmas past.
Photos: Paradise of the Pacific/HONOLULU Magazine Archives
The night before Christmas of 1921, the Young Women’s Christian Association threw a party for their “oriental friends and neighbors” in an attempt to help women living in segregated communities become integrated into society. The party consisted of a play, depicting the Christian Christmas story. However, most of the guests in attendance didn’t speak English. Two strangers watched the gathering from afar. One asked, “Are they even Christians?” To which the other replied, “Friendliness is Christian and this is Christmas Eve.” In talking they realized the party wasn’t about the story. “I believe you are right,” the first one said. “Just to be friendly is, after all, the real spirit of Christmas.”
In 1931, Hawai‘i Island residents bore witness to an eruption from Halema‘uma‘u, an active pit within Kīlauea crater, on Dec. 23. Lorrin P. Thurston and Marion Mulroney, president and manager of KGU radio, lowered a mic into the mouth of Halema‘uma‘u to broadcast the symphony of crackling, rumbling and roaring from a “two-gun, rip-snortin’, fire-eatin’ volcano.” It was Mother Nature’s Christmas gift, “Pele’s 1931 Christmas Offering,” of a glimpse into the grandeur of Mother Nature and Pele themselves.
Hawai‘i is well known for its tropical weather and is often a destination for those escaping the grips of the cold. Little does the world know, come December, there are a few places in the Islands that are blanketed in snowfall. In 1936, a spirited group of skiers and sportsmen decided to determine whether or not winter sports could be developed in the Islands. The trek was a success and they found that “all that may be considered typically Hawaiian was lost completely in the endless rolling open slopes.” Aside from the awful sunburn.
Embracing Hawai‘i’s own native plants, the Honolulu Academy of Arts explored ingenious ways to use local garden materials such as plants, trees and flowers, to bring out the festive spirit in true Hawaiian style.
Among the different “holiday celebrations” in Hawai‘i, locals in 1962 looked forward to events from the Mākaha Surfing Championship trials to Santa’s arrival at Waikīkī in an outrigger canoe.
Winter in Hawai‘i may be a tropical vacation for some, but it still calls for those doll-up and dine-out occasions. The holiday fashion trends in 1983 strived to embrace and reflect the season’s elegance and spirit. Darker colors were favored, as were slim-fit feminine dresses. Almost everything was made to shine with glitter or beads; even knits were made with metallic yarn, to sparkle alongside the joy in folks’ eyes and the Christmas lights.
People and families in Hawai‘i have been decorating their homes to spread joy for years. In 1989, HONOLULU searched the island of O‘ahu for the best season’s sights. They found glowing dolphins pulling Santa’s boat, a whole house lit up in red and yellow with the word “noel” and more.
Nā Hōkū award-winning harpist Susi Hassong celebrated Christmas by spreading a little song to all. Serenading crowds in Waikīkī on a horse-drawn carriage was her way of giving back to the community during the holiday season. “The caroling is my gift,” she said. “It has to do with my feelings about the magic of Christmas.”
Gordon Svec, an independent scenic designer, doubled as a master of Christmas décor. After Ala Moana Center contracted him to design a train for the mall in 1994, his services were requested throughout Hawai‘i by Ala Moana, Aloha Tower and Kāhala Mall. A Mainland firm sought him out to design and build Christmas displays nationwide.