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The First Christmas Celebrated in Hawaiʻi


While the New England missionaries brought Christianity to Hawaiʻi in the early 1800's, it was almost 50 years before a celebration of Christmas was introduced to the people of this Island Kingdom.  In 1862, King Kamehameha IV and his wife, Queen Emma, were confirmed in the Anglican Communion.  Following this, it became the Royal pair's wish that Hawaiʻi should celebrate the Christian holiday.  They issued a Royal Proclamation declaring Christmas to be a National Holiday for the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.The entire population received the proclamation with great enthusiasm, according to accounts written at the time.  The merchants busied themselves displaying dolls and toys in shop windows.  The cathedral choir began practicing Christmas carols.  The King ordered

cypress boughs to be brought from the mountains to decorate the temporary Episcopal Cathedral. He even ordered guns mounted atop Pūowaina (Punchbowl), which is the backdrop for the royal residence, to be fired in a salute as a part of the festivities.

The royal family planned to make this first Christmas celebrated in Hawaiʻi an event to be remembered!  The first official Hawaiian Christmas service was conducted on Christmas Eve beginning at midnight, complete with Christmas carols sung by the choir.  Following the service, the King and his Queen led the people in a torchlight procession through the streets from the church to the palace grounds.  Then, the silence of the night was shattered as guns boomed a salute from the heights of Pūowaina.  This was followed by the release of containers of flaming tar, forming incandescent rivulets down the face of Pūowaina's slopes.  Hardly had this subsided when the velvet night sky was illuminated with a glorious display of fireworks!  What a splendid event this must have been.  The awed crowd concluded this festive first Christmas celebration by singing "Good King Wenceslas."  Christmas had come to Hawaiʻi.

Though your Christmas may not be celebrated on quite so glorious a scale as that celebrated here in the Islands on that very first Hawaiian Christmas, your team here at wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas ... Island style.

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