It doesn’t matter where you are—everyone can use a dose of island culture from time to time! With its laid-back and relaxed attitude, the essence of Hawaii is worth capturing during any time of year.
The Aloha spirit is all about friendliness, and many Hawaiian customs exist to reinforce a strong sense of community. The quintessential Hawaiian party is the luau, a communal feast that’s often a potluck, with guests bringing their own specialty desserts and dishes. Wherever you are this month, why not plan a Hawaiian-themed potluck of your own? These work well in RV parks and campgrounds, where all the guests can meet in the camp picnic area. Your guests could bring pork and pineapple dishes, banana cream pies with coconut, burgers with mango toppings, and flavored drinks like mai tais and piña coladas. You might even try making poi, the historic staple of Hawaii. Made from pounded taro root, poi is traditionally eaten with your hands, using a few fingers as a spoon.
At Hawaiian potlucks, it’s considered good manners to take a plate of food home with you at the end of the evening. This not only helps your hosts clean up, it lets them feed good about spreading the party’s festivities onward. It’s also customary for guests in Hawaii to bring a small gift for their host. This gift is called “makana,” and it reflects the generous culture of the islands.
The slow pace of Hawaiian culture is known fondly as “island time.” People who live by island time aren’t precise about their schedules, and it’s common for them to run a little late all day long. By the same token, drivers on the road aren’t usually in a hurry. Even in the traffic of Oahu, drivers tend to follow the speed limit whether they’re in the fast lane or not. Things in Hawaii aren’t too spread out, so there’s no need to rush from one location to another. Think of all the stress we could prevent if mainlanders adopted this frame of mind.
This happy Hawaiian attitude flows over into the style of dress. Instead of struggling into a suit and tie—let alone high heels—people in Hawaii wear sandals and shorts, flowered Aloha shirts, and pretty print dresses. Women may wear a flower tucked behind one ear (the right ear for single women; left ear for married or attached women).
Leis are an iconic part of Hawaiian culture, but in reality they’re reserved for special occasions like weddings, graduations, birthdays, and promotions. The next time you’re celebrating, why not go Hawaiian-style with leis, a luau, and frosty fresh-fruit cocktails? You could dance the hula, eat luau-style at a long banquet, or even go for a big group canoe ride. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have surfing waves nearby or tropical palms waving overhead. The point is to capture the warm, graceful spirit of the islands and bring some of that relaxation into your own life.
Christmas is a particularly fun time to go Hawaiian. Winter is a traditional time of celebration in Hawaii, when native peoples gave thanks for the bounty of the earth. Originally, this was a four-month period called Makahiki when no one was allowed to fight or go to war. In Hawaii, a few local treats are usually served alongside traditional Christmas foods like turkey and fruitcake. You might enjoy lumpia, coconut pudding, tamales, poke, and sushi. Manapua is a popular kind of steamed roll that’s filled with chicken or pork. Some families have a complete luau for Christmas with a pig roasted in an underground pit. They’ll also eat chicken long rice, lomilomi salmon, and poi. Christmas usually begins with Santa arriving in a magic outrigger canoe and ends with singing carols such as Mele Kalikimaka.
Honoring the earth is important to Hawaiians. In Hawaii there are many taboos against taking things away from natural places. For instance, curses have been known to fall on people who take black sand from the beach or rocks from volcanic sites.
To lend an authentic touch to your Hawaiian festivities, try using a few common Hawaiian phrases. We all know that “aloha” is both hello and goodbye, but did you also know how to say thank you (mahalo) or thumbs up (shaka). You can ask for a plate of “pupus” or appetizers (as in a pupu platter), wear a puku shell necklace, or ask a band for an encore by shouting “hana hou” (do it again).
No matter where you live, it’s time to spice up your life with a little island flavor! From its tasty foods to casual dress, Hawaiian is a good way to be.