Our Story

Event History

1985:   “Let There Be Peace, Let There Be Light”

Mayor Frank F. Fasi created a free event that included a lighted tree on the main lawn, decorated tree display in the courtyard, holiday concert and displays of light on the trees and buildings from downtown to the civic center.


The first 50-foot Norfolk Pine was decorated with wooden white doves and gold balls and illuminated by flood lights. The official tree lighting ceremony was held on Thursday, December 12, 1985.


1986: “Corridor of Lights”

Conceived when more downtown/civic center businesses began participating with light displays on their buildings. A public wreath contest and display were added to the holiday celebration.


1987: “Honolulu City Lights” is born

The month-long holiday event is named “Honolulu City Lights”. The City Christmas tree was originally decorated with strings of colored lights and a traffic signal control box was used to change the colors. You could hear the box clicking from green/yellow/red but no one cared. They were happy because the big tree would change colors.


 1988: Designer Owen Ho was brought on as the event’s designer.

Ornaments were made for the big tree and the first of many large outdoor displays were created to make Honolulu City Lights unique among city holiday displays.




1989: Welcome Shaka Santa!

Standing 21-feet high and weighing 2-tons, Shaka Santa was the first of the large displays to debut. Sculptor Kurt Nelson took Ho’s design and brought it to life. The Shaka Santa is now an integral part of the display and has sat on the outdoor fountain every year since then.


The Early 1990s: More displays add to the festive atmosphere

In the years following Shaka Santa’s addition, the Snow Family, Mrs. Claus (now called Mele), the alphabet blocks, gnomes, bears, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were added.


The “corridor of lights” was extended from downtown to Thomas Square.


 1991: Electric Light Parade

One of the most popular elements—the Public Workers’ Electric Light Parade—was added thanks to the efforts of the Parade Man Nelson Fujio and city employee Eddie Oi. Families came to see the decorated city work vehicles (refuse truck, cherry picker, ambulance, fire truck, vector truck) bringing Christmas delight to the crowds.


 1995: Honolulu Hale gets a “facelift”

While the monkey pod trees on the City Hall grounds had been illuminated for years as part of the “corridor of lights,” the lighting of the front of Honolulu Hale was not added until this year.


2001: Patriotic pride

After 9/11, a huge, lighted American flag was installed on the front lawn by the big tree and all the outdoor display figures wore red, white and blue ribbons.


Over the next decade, more outdoor displays were added (Bear Band and Lanakila train) and new ornaments were created every 3 years for the big tree.


2004: Honolulu City Lights’ 20th anniversary


2009: Honolulu City Lights’ 25th anniversary

A limited edition commemorative silver ornament was created in honor of the event. A special four-panel display was created to highlight the history of Honolulu City Lights,   Shaka Santa, Tutu Mele, and the Snow Family.  

2014: Honolulu City Lights’ 30th anniversary

A limited edition commemorative gold ornament  was created in honor of the event.


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