How to make our Hawaiian Christmas party special?
November 20, 2013 8:15 AM   Subscribe

We're having a holiday party for about 65 guests, and the theme will be "Holiday Luau." What are some clever, on-theme games/activities or decorations or a surprise dish or tiki spectacle that will make the evening truly memorable?

Unfortunately none of our friends spin-poi or do fire-dancing, but that's an example of what we're trying to think of. Hiring Hula Girls or an Elvis impersonator would sadly cost too much.

We are already having a suckling pig, a fire pit, tiki torches and the like. If we had time to make a volcano, (Brady Bunch style) we totally would, but it seems like a big pain for a small pay-off. Our yard can't accommodate roasting a pig in the ground as would be traditional. What else can we do that wouldn't require spending much money? Thanks in advance!
posted by pgswim to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know where you're located, but it seems lately like every good-sized town (in my corner of the U.S., anyway) has a decent ukelele society/ensemble/club. It might be worth a little research to see if there's one in your area, how good they are, and what they'd charge to play a set at your party.

I'm assuming "Mele Kalikimaka" and "In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" are already on your playlist.

There are also lots of "How to Hula for Beginners" videos on youtube. Maybe you could learn a few moves in advance and then teach them to the guests as a group activity. You could put the original videos up on a projector if you're unsure of your demonstrating skills.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:36 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

This may be cost-prohibitive, but what about a scorpion bowl or another fruity-boozy punch, served in a flaming volcano bowl? You could also serve drinks in hollowed-out pineapples, melons, or coconuts.

Tiki Central and Pinterest have a great deal of guidance on much of what you're looking for, and you can check out photos and descriptions of other folks' tiki gatherings. Here's a Tiki Central thread on choosing the cheapest/easiest tiki drink to serve at a large party. I'd recommend making a big batch of a classic tiki cocktail (Mai Tai, Beachcomber, or Blue Hawaii would be my picks, curaƧao is so delicious) and putting it in a punch bowl with lemon and lime slice ice cubes and/or homemade maraschino cherries.

Also, snag some leis for when your guests arrive, and pick up some drink umbrellas! Everyone loves a drink umbrella. Instant fancy.
posted by divined by radio at 9:55 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: Go to Party City and get a bunch of their Luau stuff. I did this and everyone really loved wearing the leis!

Don't try to do too much with drinks. Have a couple of old fashioned Trader Vic's specials, serve them punch style if you like. Don't make them too strong. (That's what the fruit juice is for.) Mai Tai, Planters Punch and Blue Hawaiian are all good choices.

If you can manage it, Hawaiian Beer might be a thing.

Have you HAD poi? It's not so great. Yeah, it's traditional, but yuk. Serve food you know people like. I do recommend Shrimp Toast. Long a feature on the Pu-Pu Platter, it's yummy and easy and can be done ahead of time, frozen and reheated in the oven. (I'd leave out the cilantro.)

I had a luau and it was great fun. Do you have a fire pit or some other source of warmth? So folks can be comfy outside. You may be able to rent these things. I found rentals of tables and chairs VERY affordable, and well worth it!

Have a GREAT time! Luaus are one of my favorite kinds of parties!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:06 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just got back from Hawaii and I already miss my spam musubi. I would be excited if someone made them for a party I was going to. If you think your guests would not appreciate spam you can make musubi with mochiko chicken or teri chicken. You could make some haupia too - chocolate haupia pie is just about the best.

You could work in some Locals as a party gift. They are the flip flops (slippahs) that Hawaiians can pick up at the supermarket or the drugstore. You can buy them online at
posted by rdnnyc at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: It's not exactly Hawaiian, but it's beach-theme - consider surf-rock-style festive holiday music from Los Straightjackets.
posted by aimedwander at 11:28 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ok, for big groups that big you don't want to make traditional single person tiki cocktails, they simply are too labor intensive for that many people. Instead you want to use one of the traditional tiki punches designed to be made for huge groups of people!

I recommend The Blood of the Kapu Tiki! It's easy to prepare the separate ingredients and mix them on the stop. You can totally get away with cartons of orange and grapefruit juice, so I'd recommend that. For the lime juice you really need to juice it fairly fresh to get the right taste. So get thee to costco and buy a couple of huge bags and a decent citrus juicer (I recommend this as well designed and cheap). If you seal the fresh lime juice in airtight plastic/glass containers it'll last good enough for a bunch for 5 or 6 hours although it will lose some bite. I really recommend you stay away from those plastic containers of lime juice, but needs must and all.

Instead of a volcano I recommend you do the following with the punch. Each time you fill up the punch bowl put in three or four half lime shells in that are filled with lemon extract. Lemon extract is something like 95% pure alcohol so they burn great. Light them with a match (don't worry, there is no explosion with the stuff, it's more like a super strong tea light). Tell the crowd, "Before we partake of the Blood of the Kapu Tiki we must make an offering to its Tiki Spirit!" Then take a spice shaker you've filled with a mix of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg in each hand and shake it wildly over the punch bowl. Where the spice cloud hits the lemon extract candles it'll erupt into a shower of harmless, but very bright, sparks. And the slight bit of cinnamon and nutmeg that gets to the punch will add to the flavor nicely.

You might want to practice the shake ahead of time. And practice drinking the punch. Maybe for a day or two....just saying.
posted by bswinburn at 1:54 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I live on Maui. Every party I go to has without fail butter mochi, poke, short ribs, chow fun, and sushi. Also, poi is really quite wonderful, I love it. If you have a tiki party (shrimp toast, Mai Tai, puupuu platter) that is really not the same thing, but fun in its own way--not really Hawaiian (kind of like comparing actual Italian food to Chef Boyardee). FWIW, I love puupuu platters and shrimp toast.

No one does any games at the parties I have gone to, just eat, drink, and sometimes play guitar.

A surprise food would be spam musubi.
posted by fifilaru at 4:14 PM on November 20, 2013

Gotta agree with Ruthless Bunny: poi really isn't very tasty. But if you insist on haveing something vaguely poi-like, try consider somewhat-watery Cream of Wheat (aka farina). It'd be a little grainier than the real thing, but without salt/sugar/etc both are pretty bland.

The Party Store is good for a ton of stuff, also Oriental Trading Co ( Make sure to get a few strands of pineapple-shaped and/or palm-tree-shaped lights.

For a Christmas tree, don't use a pine or fir: use a palm tree --- a real one if you can get one, an inflatable one otherwise. String more lights on there, and put 'presents' underneath.

And I'm pretty sure Don Ho recorded some Christmas music.....
posted by easily confused at 5:35 PM on November 20, 2013

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