Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Holidays in Hawaii: Official and Unofficial State Holidays in 2024

by | Jan 11, 2024

Welcome to an exciting journey into the world of Hawaiian holidays! As we delve into the heart of Hawaii’s festive spirit, we uncover a rich tapestry of both official and “unofficial” celebrations that define the island’s unique culture and heritage.

Hawaiian Holidays in Hawaii

HolidayDateDescription
Chinese New YearLate January to mid-FebruaryCelebrated with reds and golds, vibrant parades, Lion Dance, and fireworks. Originated with Chinese immigrants around 1855. Includes events like the Narcissus Festival Pageant.
Girl's Day (Hina Matsuri)March 3rdCelebrates daughters with displays of dolls representing the Japanese royal court, wearing kimonos, and sharing mochi. Reflects ancient traditions and cultural integration in Hawaii.
Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole DayMarch 26thHonors Prince Kuhio's contributions to Hawaiian people, including the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. Celebrated with parades, canoe races, and hula dancing.
May Day or "Lei Day"May 1stSince 1928, celebrates Hawaiian culture with the crafting of flower leis, dressing in bright colors, and selecting a Lei Queen. Each island celebrates with its own type of flower lei.
Boy's DayMay 5thFeatures colorful koi fish windsocks for each boy in the family, samurai dolls, and kimonos. Celebrates boys and their health and success, with roots in Japanese traditions.
King Kamehameha I DayJune 11thPays tribute to King Kamehameha I who united the islands. Celebrated with lei draping over his statues, parades, and hula dancing. Highlights Hawaiian history and culture.
Sovereignty Restoration Day or La Hoihoi EaJuly 31stMarks the restoration of Hawaiian sovereignty, celebrating freedom and independence. Features parades, music, and food, commemorating Hawaiian history.
Admissions Day or "Statehood"Third Friday in AugustCommemorates Hawaii's admission as the 50th state in 1959. A complex holiday reflecting on statehood's impact on native culture and traditions. Includes fireworks and flags.
Independence Day or La KuokoaNovember 28thRemembers when the Hawaiian Kingdom was an independent nation. Recognizes the efforts of those who fought for freedom and sovereignty.

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From the historical majesty of King Kamehameha I Day to the floral joy of Lei Day, these holidays are not just dates on the calendar; they are a vivid expression of Hawaii’s distinct identity.

Whether you’re dreaming of a Hawaiian getaway or are enchanted by the islands’ traditions, this exploration promises to be an exciting adventure through the essence of Hawaiian holidays.

With this ultimate guide, we’ll unravel the mysteries of both official and “unofficial” Hawaiian festivities, ensuring you hit every celebration like a local!

Key Takeaways of Hawaiian Holidays

  • Hawaii has unique holidays like King Kamehameha I Day on June 11th and Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day on March 26th to honor important historical figures.
  • Special Hawaiian days like May Day, also called Lei Day, show how islanders celebrate their culture with flowers and parades on the first week of May.
  • Native Hawaiian advocates want more people to learn about holidays such as La Kuokoa on November 28th, celebrating Hawaii’s history as an independent nation before becoming a state.
  • Boy’s Day and Girl’s Day are influenced by Japanese traditions, where families wish health and success for their children with special events and decorations in May and March.
  • Chinese New Year is celebrated between January and February with firecrackers, parades, lion dances, tea sipping, fireworks displays, and the Narcissus Festival Pageant.

Understanding the Uniqueness of Hawaiian Holidays

Hawaiian holidays are special because they show the rich past and culture of the islands.

These days, people celebrate important historical figures and events that helped shape Hawaii. For example, King Kamehameha I Day honors the king who brought all the Hawaiian islands together under one rule.

There’s also a day for Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who worked hard to help Native Hawaiians.

You’ll find flowers and parades on these days, showing off island colors and traditions. Some holidays even come from other places but got their own Hawaiian twist! Like May Day becoming Lei Day when everyone makes and wears flower leis.

Official and “Unofficial” Hawaiian Holidays

Iolani Palace in Honolulu Oahu - Hawaiian Holidays

Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Oahu

Chinese New Year: Late January and mid-February

Just like Girl’s Day is a burst of pink and delightful traditions, Chinese New Year splashes Hawaii with reds and golds, bringing its own unique customs. It’s a time when the air fills with the boom of firecrackers and the streets come alive with vibrant parades.

The Lion Dance snakes through crowds, its dancers moving to drum beats meant to scare away bad luck.

This celebration first came to Hawaii around 1855 with Chinese immigrants who shared their lunar new year festivities. Now, everyone gets in on the fun, whether they’re sipping tea or watching fireworks light up the sky.

One highlight is the Narcissus Festival Pageant—think beauty meets culture—and it adds an extra layer of excitement to the already buzzing atmosphere.

Mark your calendars—it happens between late January and mid-February each year! Just follow that lively beat down Honolulu’s streets; it’ll lead you right into the heart of Chinese New Year in Hawaii.

Girl’s Day: March 3rd

Girl’s Day lights up in Hawaii on March 3rd every year. It’s a special time called Hina Matsuri, coming from Japan. Families celebrate their daughters, wishing for their happiness and success.

Houses are filled with beautiful displays of dolls that stand for the Japanese royal court. These dolls are not just toys; they carry hopes for girls to grow up strong, graceful, and full of peace.

On this day, you might see folks wearing bright kimonos and sharing tasty treats like mochi—sweet rice cakes! Parties often have singing and story-telling about girls’ strength and dreams.

Girl’s Day is much more than fun—it keeps ancient traditions alive in Hawaii. It shows how the islands embrace different cultures and make them their own unique celebration.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day: March 26th

Statue of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole in Waikiki - Hawaiian Holidays

Every year on March 26th, Hawaii celebrates something special. It’s Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day! This day is all about remembering a great leader who once stood up for the Hawaiian people.

Prince Kuhio was part of the royal family and worked hard to protect the islands’ way of life. He went all the way to Washington D.C. as a Territorial Delegate to make sure Hawaiians got their voices heard.

During his time, he did amazing things like creating the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. Thanks to him, many Hawaiian families have places to live that celebrate their culture.

On this holiday, people in Hawaii do fun stuff like parades, canoe races, and hula dancing.

They hang up flowers and share stories about how Prince Kuhio helped make Hawaii what it is today.

May Day or “Lei Day”: May 1st

Colorful Leis in Hawaii - Hawaiian Holidays

Colorful Leis in Hawaii

May Day on May 1st, also known as “Lei Day”, blooms with the spirit of aloha in Hawaii. Since 1928, Hawaiians have embraced this day to showcase their love for the lei—a symbol of welcome and friendship.

It’s a time when folks craft these beautiful flower necklaces and dress up in bright colors to honor an important part of Hawaiian culture.

On Lei Day, which waves hello on the first day of May, each island celebrates with its own type of flower lei. Imagine a parade where people wear leis made from orchids, plumerias, or even the vibrant ilima.

The sight is just breathtaking! They pick a Lei Queen too—a big honor that brings excitement across the islands.

During this festive occasion, you can feel joy buzzing everywhere—young and old gather to create leis and enjoy music that fills the air like sweet perfume.

This tradition isn’t just about flowers; it’s about keeping connected to past customs and sharing happiness with others.

Boy’s Day: May 5th

Boy’s Day in Hawaii is a blast! It happens every May 5th. This day is all about celebrating boys and wishing them health and success. You’ll see colorful koi fish windsocks flying high.

Each one stands for a boy in the family; the biggest one for the oldest son, then smaller ones follow for each brother.

Families also have fun with traditions from Japan since Boy’s Day came from there long ago. Boys get to eat tasty mochi rice cakes and play with cool samurai dolls. Some boys wear kimono, which are special Japanese clothes, on this day too.

They might even fly awesome kites that look like dragons or other unique shapes!

King Kamehameha I Day: June 11th

King Kamehameha Statue in Honolulu Oahu - Hawaiian Holidays

King Kamehameha Statue in Honolulu, Oahu

Hawaii lights up with pride and celebration on June 11th for King Kamehameha I Day. This special day pays tribute to a great leader who brought the islands together as one kingdom in 1795.

People across Hawaii honor him by draping long, beautiful leis over statues of King Kamehameha. Parades fill the streets, hula dancers sway to traditional music, and people remember the king’s legacy.

Festivities are especially grand on the Big Island where he was born. It’s a time for locals and visitors to learn about Hawaiian history and culture.

RELATED PODCAST: Kamehameha Day

Sovereignty Restoration Day or La Hoihoi Ea: July 31st

La Hoihoi Ea celebrates a huge moment for Hawaii. It marks the day Hawaiian sovereignty got its power back, honoring freedom and independence. People come together on July 31st to remember this special time.

They honor the brave ones who stood up against those who wanted to control them.

Festivities bring to life the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom. You’ll see flags flying high and people gathering for parades, music, and food that make you feel like part of something big.

This holiday is not just about looking back but also about feeling proud today.

Admissions Day or “Statehood”: Third Friday in August

So, Admissions Day—or Statehood Day if you like—rolls around every third Friday of August. This is a big deal because, back in 1959, Hawaii became the “official” 50th state in the United States.

People take this day to party and also think deep about what becoming a state meant for Hawaii’s original culture. It’s not just another day off; it’s a time when folks remember how Hawaii joined up with all the other states to make one big country.

Like that famous cake we can’t get enough of at parties, Admissions Day has layers—layers of joy, pride, and some serious talks too. Sure enough, there are fireworks and flags waving high on Statehood Day.

But there’s also room for chats about how things have changed since 1959 for Native Hawaiians and their traditions. It’s a complicated holiday with many layers.

Independence Day or La Kuokoa: November 28th

Hawaiian Flage Inverted at Mauna Kea - Hawaiian Holidays

“US HI Mauna Kea Access Road Inverted Hawaiian Flag” by AlexanderKlink is marked with CC0 1.0.

La Kuokoa is a special day in Hawaii. It honors the day when the Hawaiian Kingdom stood tall as an independent nation. This was before America and other countries recognized it. People remember the heroes who fought hard for freedom on November 28th each year.

Governor Josh Green made sure to mark La Kuokoa on calendars by signing a bill. Now, every year, we think about Hawaii’s past and those strong people who wanted their land to be free.

There’s also talk about making this holiday bigger so everyone can learn more about the important history of native Hawaiians and their culture.

The Cultural Significance of Hawaiian Holidays

Hawaiian holidays are a big deal—they honor the islands’ rich stories and the people and cultures who shaped them. Take Kamehameha Day. It’s not just any day off; it celebrates King Kamehameha I, who brought all the islands together under one rule.

That’s huge! Parades with colorful floats fill the streets, and lei draping ceremonies happen at statues of the king.

These days aren’t only about history; they’re also about pride in Hawaii’s unique culture. Imagine Lei Day—everyone gives and wears leis, those beautiful flower necklaces you see in pictures of Hawaii.

It’s like giving a piece of nature to say “Aloha” which means love, hello or goodbye. This tradition shows how Hawaiians value nature and friendship.

And that says a lot about what makes these islands special—it’s their way to hold on to what matters most while inviting others to join in too.

Advocates Push for More Recognition of Native Hawaiian Holidays

Holidays are more than just fun days off. They tell the story of a place and its people. Advocates in Hawaii want everyone to know about Native Hawaiian holidays. These special days show how rich and deep Hawaii’s roots go.

Some people like Dr. Noelani GoodYear-Ka Opua, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, work hard to share these stories.

They say important times like La Kuokoa get lost because of past unfairness. And they’re right – many people and visitors haven’t heard about these days.

“So around the world, Thanksgiving is not a holiday that others celebrate. So similarly here in Hawaii, we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we celebrated La Kuokoa. And so the replacement of La Kuokoa with Thanksgiving was part of the cultural kind of work and change that the white supremacist oligarchy was trying to engage in,” Ka Opua said.

Kalawaia Nunies, a UH Manoa student who is a native Hawaiian, has an idea, too. Kalawaia says we should put money into celebrating Native Hawaiian days.

“The University of Hawaii at Manoa established in their 2002 strategic plan that this place shall be deemed a Hawaiian place of learning, however, within the last 21 years now, I believe that the university hasn’t done a good job and it’s evident through their community outreach and what they have done to kanaka Hawaii,” says Nunies.

Wikuki Kengi takes it even further. He believes that big holidays about freedom and the land should be cheered for across all of America! That way, Hawaiians’ pride can shine from sea to shining sea, reminding us all that each state has its own sparkle to share.

Hawaiian Holidays Wrap-Up

So, there you have it – the amazing holidays of Hawaii! These days are not just any regular old breaks; they’re a whirlwind of history and culture. Remember to mark your calendars for 2024, because whether it’s official or not-so-official, each celebration is a unique sparkle in Hawaii’s year.

Dive into these special times with lei-making, parades, or maybe even learn a hula dance. Every holiday tells a story—can’t wait for you to join the party! Aloha and happy planning your Hawaiian holiday adventures!

FAQs for Hawaiian Holidays

1. What’s so special about King Kamehameha Day in Hawaii?

Oh boy, King Kamehameha Day on June 11th is a big deal in Hawaii! It’s when people honor the Hawaiian monarch who united the islands in 1810. There are parades with floats, lots of music, and folks dress up in traditional Hawaiian gear to celebrate.

2. Can you tell me about Prince Kuhio Day?

Sure thing! Prince Kuhio Day on March 26th is all about giving props to Prince Jonah Kuhiō Kalaniana’ole – he did a ton for the people of Hawaii and even served as their delegate to Congress way back starting in 1903. On this day, think lei draping and local pride galore!

3. Is there a holiday for when Hawaii became part of America?

Yep, that’s Hawaii Statehood Day on the 3rd Friday in August! This day marks when Hawaii officially became the 50th state of America back in ’59. Some folks have mixed feelings about it because it also reminds them of the overthrow of the monarchy – but it’s still an important date with lots of history attached.

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Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy, owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel, is a certified Hawaii destination expert from the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. He actively participates in the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau as a member and has a strong educational background focused on local culture and sustainability. As the host of “Hawaii’s Best Travel,” a top-30 US travel podcast, Bryan combines his years of experience with valuable insights. He connects with a broad online community, reaching nearly half a million people, and offers a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.