Christmas in America: Lāhainā

Lāhainā, Maui

Don’t hold out hope for a white Christmas in a town whose name means ‘cruel sun’. But drop in on the town of Lahaina and you’ll experience a holiday tradition that says as much about community as about adaptation.

Lahaina oceanfront

Lahaina oceanfront

In the 1820s, the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii was a hot, dusty village called Lāhainā. Whaling boats frequented the waters, sheltered by other islands from harsh weather. The village soon became a port of call for thousands of sailors. Buildings went up on the model of New England towns, bars did well, and related businesses flourished. Herman Melville, author of the whaling saga Moby Dick, was one such sailor. At one point Lāhainā was the center of the global whaling industry. But in 1945 the capital was moved to O’ahu and life at Lāhainā slowed down. Today its high street is still reminiscent of New England, it is a National Historic District, and visitors flock there more than any other place on Maui except the beaches.

Banyan Tree Lighting Ceremony, Lahaina, Maui

Banyan Tree Lighting Ceremony, Lahaina, Maui

It never gets cold. At sunset, the wooden porches that stretch out over the sea take a golden glow. Sailboats bob in the harbour. Each year on the first Saturday of December the townsfolk gather in the park for a day of celebration. The sound of live music and carolers fills your ears and the smell of baked goods tempts your taste buds. The great banyan tree is strung with colourful lights. It’s familiar, it’s wonderful, and yet it’s about 20 degrees C.

Location: Banyan Tree Park on Front Street
Schedule: first Saturday in December, 6:30pm

Travelling to America? Start here.

There’s no better place than the 2AD Memorial Library to find American travel guides. We have books on all fifty states, often several for each state, as well as guides for major U.S. cities. Our collection of oversized photography books is a great place to start planning.

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