Tips for surviving a first birthday party in Hawaii

Tips for surviving a first birthday party in Hawaii

In this post I will explain a little bit about how “Hawaii-ans” celebrate First Birthdays!

Note: Why are you saying “Hawaii-ans?” I thought that the correct term was “Hawaiians”
In Hawaii if you do not have Hawaiian blood then you can not say that you are “Hawaiian.” “Hawaii-ans” is a term that I use (and many other locals as well) to define that we live here, but are not native to the land. It might not seem like a big deal, but to a lot of people that are native Hawaiians, it is. Thus respectfully, I will refer to those of us that live here as “Hawaii-ans.”

In the Hawaiian islands celebrating a first birthday is a huge milestone!

We are talking, really big deal! I always jest that it means that the parents survived on little to no sleep for a whole year, but really it means celebrating the child’s long life journey ahead. Not to mention, us Hawaii-ans like almost any excuse we can to throw a party, invite all the Aunties and Uncles, and eat all the yummilicious foods! Good food, great company, Hawaiian music, and sometimes green bottles are involved in the celebratory process. 😉 You really can’t go wrong with that.

The venues for first birthday parties vary depending on the preference of the parents. I have been to fancy birthdays at the Hawaii aquarium, Hawaii Country Club, hotel ballrooms, and very simple parties; at the beach, someone’s backyard, or a local community center. The main thing is enjoying the company of friends and family to celebrate together.

What do people in Hawaii eat at these First Birthday Celebrations?

Traditional food varieties vary on the cultural heritage of the parents. Although in Hawaii, you can never go wrong with Hawaiian food. For example:

Pupus (appetizers): Poke (any and all varieties), pipkaula (smoked meat), lomi salmon etc..

Entrees: Laulau (steamed taro leaves and meat), Kalua pork, long rice (long rice noodles to signify long life), poi, rice (because you can’t have a party without rice in Hawaii), and other assorted meats.

Dessert: Haupia (coconut pudding).

Sometimes the line is also blurred between Hawaiian food and Hawaii food. While there is Traditional Hawaiian food, Hawaii/local food has been cooked up/evolved over the years because we are the melting pot of many cultures. Thus, over the course of time we have developed many interesting and delicious foodie fusion concoctions.

Last week I gave a brief overview of First Birthday Parties in Hawaii. We discussed why we celebrate, the venues, and got side tracked talking about the food involved.

What to wear?

Aloha casual wear is usually the staple unless you are going to some place fancy. I do enjoy themed parties because it makes outfitting so much easier. If you have children it’s always recommended to bring a change of clothes for them. Kids are kids, they play hard and run into everything possible! That’s what being a kid is about! Ohh and hand sanitizer! It’s always a must in my go bag.

What to bring?

You won’t need to bring food unless it’s potluck. Come hungry and be ready to eat (or it maybe be considered rude). Bring a card or gift for the birthday boy/girl. Sometimes the parents have a registry, but if in doubt monetary contributions and gift cards are the way to go. I’m actually not very good at giving gifts so if I’m not working the event, I always try to talk to the hosts in advance to see if they need help with anything. Maybe they need help with set up, table centerpieces, designing party invitations, or managing the sign in table. There are lots of creative ways to help the celebration run smoothly.

What to do?

Sometimes the hosts have activities planned for attendees such as: scavenger hunt, craft table, or lawn games. First, sign-in and say “hi” to the hosts, get your selfies now! They will be busy, but will appreciate the photos later. Then enjoy the activities and food.


Recently, I attended Zoe’s first birthday at the Pacific Palisades Community Center in Pearl City, Hawaii. It was a fabulous time with a very welcoming picnic set up. This community center features a large park area with a playground and pool area. It’s an awesome place for kids to run around! There was a bubble machine, bubble station, lawn games, giant jinga tower, and craft table.

The birthday girl looked stunning in her blue party dress and Mom and Dad busily greeting friends and family to welcome them! My inner child was mesmerized by the bubble tornado machine! I snapped a few shots as the kids came up to capture bubbles and run through its seemingly endless colorful bubble jet stream.

Bubbles make everything more magical! My partner, being a chemist, undertook the task of perfecting the bubble formula and proceeded to make giant bubbles!

It was a fabulous time of celebrating and mingling with family and friends. There was live Hawaiian music playing in the background as the buffet line opened, serving up delicious Hawaii foods. I definitely had seconds. So glad to have been party of Zoe’s first birthday! Looking forward to celebrating many more!



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