The shopping malls were closed and the gifts had all been opened. So for many, the best way to spend Christmas night was to head to Honolulu Hale for Honolulu City Lights.
For a lot of Oahu residents, it's a tradition that has grown since the event's humble beginnings in 1985. Among the thousands who jammed Honolulu Hale and the Civic Center grounds, there are some who make sure they visit on this particular night.
"It's just tradition," said Michelle Welch, who has been coming to Honolulu City Lights since she was a child. "It's not Christmas without seeing the Honolulu lights."
Some cities have run into problems with Christmas displays because they included nativity scenes showing the birth of Jesus -- a religious display in a public space.
But for years, there has been a so-called "free speech" zone, just Diamond Head of city hall.
"We're usually up front where all the commotion is at, and then we decided to walk out this way, and I was like, 'let's check out these lights back here," said Waipahu resident Sandy Castaneda, who came with his family.
This year's zone includes two nativity scenes, one from the Roman Catholic Diocese and another from Calvary Chapel West Oahu. There's also a large lighted cross and the word "Jesus," from the Hawaii Chinese Christian Mission Gospel Center. They share the space with a display from the Boy Scouts of America, and a tree with the gay rights rainbow flag.
The displays all have a disclaimer that they aren't officially part of Honolulu City Lights, or endorsed by the city.
"We're Catholic, and we always like to make sure, especially my kids, that this is Jesus' birthday," said Ewa Beach resident Sandi Daclison.
"They should put this up front so that everybody can see," said Castaneda. "Because He's the reason for the season, right?"
But for hundreds of others, it was a time to look at the lights and be together with family. Simply the right night to get into the holiday spirit.
"It just feels like Christmas," said Welch. "You know, we don't have snow, but we definitely have Santa here with the shaka."
Honolulu City Lights continues through January 1.
Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
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