The Hawaiian Islands, home to a culturally and ethnically diverse population, are about to celebrate one of the most fun-filled festivals of the year. Many are laying elaborate plans to usher in the New Year with different customs and foods from different cultures. The common aim is to bring good luck in the transition from old to new, celebrated in what seems to be as many ways as possible.
Native Hawaiians celebrate Makahiki traditions of games and sports, and observing religious ceremonies. In ancient times, the Makahiki season extended through the winter months. The widespread use of firecrackers is one New Year’s custom that everyone seems to enjoy. The tradition, which Chinese immigrants brought to the islands in the 19th century, was originally meant to scare off evil spirits. Now, of course, it’s for wholehearted enjoyment. The New Year is also a time to share and sample food from other cultures. For example, Portuguese prepare bean soup, Filipinos cook up pork adobo (marinated, seasoned and simmered meat) and the Chinese make different kinds of dumplings and noodles, symbolizing longevity. Another popular New Year’s dish is mochi, a type of Japanese rice cake made with sticky rice that is repeatedly pounded in ceremonial tradition. The round shape of the mochi, and its glutinous texture, represent family harmony and cohesiveness. A Japanese tradition of eating sashimi on December 31 finds it roots in local Japanese culture, with the fish representing prosperity for the coming year. While other cultures around the globe have their own New Year’s culinary idiosyncrasies and customs, most indulge in the universal symbol of good fortune — a toast at midnight and a verse of “Auld Lang Syne.” As the New Year approaches, the Maui Economic Development Board, MEDB, Staff would like to be among the first to wish you “Hau’oli Makahiki Hou.” Happy New Year!