OPINION: A Haole’s Guide to New Year’s

December 31, 2013, 4:53 PM HST
* Updated January 6, 3:42 PM
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Tonight, as millions of Americans gather round their televisions to watch Ryan Seacrest’s ball drop in Times Square, many Hawaiians will be shunning the mainland tradition of kissing strangers in favor of playing with explosives (which happens to be much safer).

Seriously, no one ever caught herpes from an artillery shell. Just saying.

There are many perks to living in the islands, one of them being that when it comes to New Year’s celebrations, no one takes things more seriously (or has more fun) than we do.

Whether you’re a new resident here or just spending the holidays with us, here are four tips for how to ring in 2014, “Hawaiian style.”

Tip #1: Show Up Late


It may sound like an insulting move, but seriously. Factor in an extra 10 minutes or more before knocking at our doors. We rarely start a party when we say we will.


For starters, we have to “clean house” before you get here. We’re also probably trying to cook eight different things, all while keeping our keiki from setting off 100,000 mini-bombs.

And besides, by the time you do show up, a third of us will be buzzed on something. We’re not gonna notice.

Tip # 2: Raw Fish – Learn to love it.


Okay, listen-up, those of you afraid of uncooked seafood:

If someone offers you a platter of raw, naked, glistening ahi (tuna) at New Year’s, don’t EVER say “I don’t eat sushi.”

For one thing, it’s called “sashimi.” Call it anything else, and you’ll get that “funny-kine” stare from everyone.

Sashimi platter. Public domain image.

Sashimi platter. Public domain image.

Secondly, best to just put it in your mouth and smile. You were just offered something that costs $30 per pound (or more), and in a place where life is already expensive, that means something.

And besides, if you’re really afraid of the flavor, just drench it in wasabi. You won’t taste a thing. Promise.

Tip # 3: Play With Fire

If your prior experience with fireworks only involved waving around sparkly things, then you’re in luck.

Sparklers are great, but they’re just the salad bar of the fireworks world.

Here we like to mix it up at New Year’s. Fountains, flowers, bombs… they’re all here in abundance.

But to really go whole-hog at the combustible buffet, you have to “know a guy.”

Hilo fireworks display. Photo by BHG Photography.

Hilo fireworks display. Photo by BHG Photography.

Now, we’re not condoning illegal fireworks. We’re just acknowledging that there are plenty to be had here.

If you want to experience the full “kaboom” a Hawaiian New Year’s celebration has to offer, you’re going to have to ask around.

Not that you’ll have to wander far. On average, at least one house in each neighborhood here manages to violate FAA airspace restrictions on Dec. 31.

And one more thing: plan on staying up till midnight. The island-wide eruption of explosives that comes with the onset of the new year is a sight (and sound) to behold. Besides, you wouldn’t be able sleep through it anyway.

Tip #4: Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed

This may be the most important piece of advice we give you, and frankly, it works “year-round.”

If someone here invites you to a party, then for the love of god don’t just show up and say “I’m here!”

That’s just NOT how it works.

Whether it’s a bowl of poke or an apple pie, make sure you bring something to share with your hosts and fellow guests. It shows us you care.

If you’re bringing food you cooked, try to use disposable serving equipment if you can. It’s not a must, but it makes clean-up easier for everyone.

Big Island Brewhaus beer sampler. Courtesy image.

Big Island Brewhaus beer sampler. Courtesy image.

And please, bring things with the intention of giving them away. If you bring three bottles of Champagne, and we only open two, be sure not to cart off with the spare. Just know that whatever you bring will likely be considered a gift. Taking it away again might be bad form.

Finally, if you’re hard-pressed for ideas over what to bring to a celebration in Hawai`i, here’s a pro-tip:

Beer is almost always welcome. Chances are, you’ll be the life of the party.

Happy New Year!

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