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Festivals and family events in Hawaii

Creating annual traditions for your family is less daunting than it seems, especially when you live in Hawaii. This list of festivals and family-oriented events can be your starting point for new adventures. The kids will want to go back to these events year after year.

Lei Day

Since 1927, the world has celebrated with Hawaii on May Day as Lei Day in Hawaii. Every May 1st, perpetuators of Hawaiian culture carefully gather native plants, shells, feathers and other materials to craft beautiful leis. Into the lei, the creators weave their mana (spirit), so that when they give a lei, they give a part of themselves. Each year on May Day, a pageant to select a Lei Queen and Lei Princesses from each of the eight Hawaiian Islands culminates in song, dance and lei contests throughout the islands. Visit the city and county of Honolulu’s Lei Day website for an updated schedule of events and festivities each year, which include free lei-making workshops, hula presentations and cultural events.

Address: 1000 Uluohia Street, Suite 309, Kapolei, Hawaii 96707

Phone: (808) 768-3003


Hawaii International Film Festival

Top notch films from across the Pacific and Asia go through a painstaking review process before the sensory feast that is the Hawaii Film Festival. Established in 1981, this film festival in the middle of the Pacific Ocean screens documentaries, features and shorts, from Asia made by Asians, from the Pacific made by Pacific Islanders and from Hawaii showing Hawaii in a culturally-accurate way. Discover creative content from over 45 countries — both emerging art and selections from the top film festival pics in the world. As the premiere cinematic event in the Pacific, the Hawaii Film Festival draws over 80,000 spectators each year.

Address: 680 Iwilei Road, Suite 100, Honolulu, HI 96817

Phone: (808) 447-0577


Honolulu Festival

The annual one-weekend community extravaganza that is the Honolulu Festival celebrates the many cultures nestled as neighbors in Hawaii. Experience taiko drums, dance, Alaskan native heritage, Japanese culture, Okinawan food and much, much more. The festival organizes a school tour to expose children of Hawaii to many cultures. A Friendship Gala features wonderful cuisine and stage performances. No festival would be complete without a Grand Parade through Waikiki and public stage shows. The Honolulu Festival attracts groups from countries all over the Pacific Rim.

Address: P.O. Box 8494, Honolulu, Hawaii 96830

Phone: 808-926-2424


Punahou Carnival

Besides being Barack Obama’s alma mater, Punahou School is famous for its annual Punahou Carnival. Expect nothing less than the best in affluent private school carnival games, rides and food booths staffed by an army of thousands of volunteers. Visitors should not leave without eating the famous malasadas (Portuguese ball-shaped donuts coated with sugar). Enjoy the white elephant tent, art gallery, auctions and tons of food at the Punahou Carnival, usually held at the beginning of February each year.

Address: 1601 Punahou St., Honolulu HI 96822

Phone: 808-944-5751


Hawaii Book and Music Festival

A wonderful melding of song, words, instruments, speech and artists of all types come to together for a huge event known as the Hawaii Book and Music Festival. Over 500 famous names among Hawaii residents, nationally-known recording artists and authors flock to perform at over 150 events. In a celebration of story and song, media vendors, food vendors and artists come to entertain and delight at this event. Free admission and free parking are available at the grounds in front of Honolulu Hale.

Address: 47-231 Kamakoi Rd., Kaneohe, HI 96744

Phone: 808-239-8451


Okinawan Festival

This huge and well-organized festival is supported by the generous Hawaii United Okinawa Association. Okinawa’s strong ties to Hawaii make for a festival of over 50,000 attendees from all over the world. More than 2,000 volunteers stage this huge assortment of food vendors, culture, children’s activities, contests and entertainment at Ala Moana Park’s McCoy Pavilion. Eat specialty food items, learn Okinawan traditions such as tattooing women, buy an official festival T-shirt, and watch music, dance and drumming by groups who travel to Hawaii all the way from Okinawa! The year 2012 marks the 30th annual Okinawan Festival, and it is sure to be bigger than ever.

Location: Kapiolani Park, Waikiki, Hawaii 96797

Phone: 808-676-5400


Waikiki Spam Jam

For the love of Spam, come out and eat. Every imaginable Spam flavor and Spam-item combo is served at the annual Spam Jam in Waikiki. The people of Hawaii love their Spam, and nowhere is this more apparent than at this festival in celebration of the luncheon meat. Chefs from Hawaii’s top restaurants concoct foods for sale, local Hawaiian crafters show their wares and two stages with free live entertainment keep the party going until 10 p.m. Take photos with giant cans of Spam, buy a Spam-shaped purse or a Spam T-shirt, or just pig out on Spam. The 2012 celebration marks the 10th Annual Waikiki Spam Jam.

Location: Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI

Phone: 808-255-5927


Chinese New Year

The large percentage of Hawaii’s population with Chinese heritage takes to the streets and celebrates with all the non-Chinese during the month-long Lunar New Year. Honolulu’s Chinatown bustles with street vendors, food, arts and crafts, and entertainment. Catch a feng shui presentation, martial arts demonstrations, Chinese fortune reading, Chinese dancing, traditional Chinese song, Lion and Dragon Dances, the Narcissus Queen and her court and weapons demonstrations. A street parade closes with a giant 150-foot dragon snaking through the crowd. This celebration takes place in January or early February, depending on the lunar calendar.

Location: Chinatown, Honolulu, HI



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