Hauoli Makahiki Hou!

Celebrating New Year's in Hawaii

In Hawaii, where people often reminisce about sunny vacations and sandy beaches, a very different tone and smell fills the air at New Year's. Due to the strong Asian influence in the islands, Hawaii becomes a noisy, bright place, as people try to scare away bad luck. Scaring away bad luck doesn't seem to be a bad idea following 2020!

Hauoli Makahiki Hou is Hawaii's way of saying, "Happy New Year."

Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures. A couple of cultures have a deep impact upon the way New Year's is traditionally celebrated in Hawaii: Chinese and Japanese.

Scaring Away Bad Luck

Playing firecrackers at midnight on New Year's Eve is a popular tradition.

Firecrackers, a form of pyrotechnics or fireworks, was created by the Chinese around the 6th Century, per Explora.

In Hawaii, people buy strings of 10,000 to 100,000 firecrackers to light at midnight, believing that the noise will scare away bad luck, which may be quite popular at the end of 2020!

Of course, Hawaii's kama'ainas (locals) are more than happy to play fireworks given any opportunity, so kama'ainas also enjoy playing firecrackers during Chinese New Year, although it is a more subdued affair.

Visiting on New Year's eve in a Hawaiian neighborhood can be a frightening affair due to the loud noises and bright lights, resembling a warzone.


According to Academic Search Complete, making mochi for the Japanese New Year soup, ozoni, is a traditional activity on New Year's Eve.

With a sweatband (pounding mochi is very arduous work) and yukata (light-weight kimono) on, two people make the traditional New Year's mochi.

One person wields the wooden mallet that pounds the sweet rice into mochi and the other person perilously places their hand into the stone pestle to mix the pounded rice.

Like many other superstitions related to good luck in the New Year, pounding mochi is considered good luck.

Other foods that are considered good luck for the New Year by Hawaii's Japanese Americans include:

  • Red fish
  • Black beans
  • Soba

Pounding Mochi Product: Ozoni, or New Year's Soup

Academic Search Complete includes an article called "Ozoni, Hoppin' John Vary By Their Makers". A recipe is provided for the Japanese New Year's Soup, or Ozoni.

Making traditional Ozoni may take a few days and the smell of cooking miso will permeate the house.

Here is the recipe from Hawai'i's Holiday Cookbook, by Muriel Miura and Betty Shimabukuro (Mutual Publishing):


  • 4 cups water
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons dashi-no-moto (or miso)
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 10 round mochi (or rectangular kirimochi), grilled
  • 1/2 bunch mizuna or horenso (spinach), cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths, blanched
  • 5 slices kamaboko


  1. In a pot, combine water, dashi-no-moto, salt and soy sauce; bring to boil.
  2. Place grilled mochi in soup bowls; add greens and kamaboko; pour hot broth over. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 5.

Note: If using fresh mochi, grilling is not necessary.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving (based on 4 servings): 200 calories, no fat, 10 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,300 mg sodium, 42 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 6 g protein

Please send me any questions in the comments section!


Books about Hawaiian New Years and Mochi Making

A Hawaii Japanese New Year with Yuki Chan, book cover
Dumpling Soup, book cover
Firecrackers, book cover
Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors, book cover
Mochi Magic, book cover