Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Kona Christmas

Magnet # 411:  Mele Kalikimaka

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

As you may have realized, today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  I've already written about this particular event which commemorates those who fought and perished in the Japanese surprise attack, so I've decided to feature Hawaii in a different light this year.  I thought I'd tie it in with the Christmas themed posts I've been putting up for part of this month, particularly because this magnet is such a perfect match.  Hawaii also celebrates Christmas in a manner that's different from all of the other states, so it's worth having a closer look at their take on this beloved celebration.

The concept of Christmas was first introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the 1820s by American Protestant missionaries from New England.  They had also been helping the natives establish a written alphabet for their spoken language.  Whenever the concept of words won't translate to Hawaiian, the missionaries substituted a phonetically similar creation.  So the English greeting of "Merry Christmas" became "Mele Kalikimaka" on the islands, a phrase that was much easier for the locals to pronounce, as they had neither R nor S in their language.  They had an easier time with "Happy New Year," as the Hawaiians already had a celebration called Makahiki that fell during that time of the year.  It was a time of feasting and rest during which no wars were waged, and was also the name for year, so "Hau'oli Makahiki Hou" became the words exchanged at the beginning of each year.  And with time, more Christmas legends and traditions began to make their way into Hawaiian culture, albeit with an island twist.  Santa and his elves appear there in aloha shirts with barefeet and arrive in a red boat or canoe pulled by dolphins instead of reindeer.  And in addition to serving turkey on December 25, families might also gather outside for a kalua pig roast as part of a community luau, and offer sweet potato cheesecake with coconut frosting for dessert.  And the leis they wear are Christmas-themed and might be accompanied by a Santa hat.  While Hawaiians might sing traditional Holiday songs at their gatherings, they've been translated into the Hawaiian language and are accompanied by ukeleles, guitars, and Hula dancers.  Considering that evergreen trees aren't usually found on the islands, they're imported before the season arrives.  Some islanders opt to grow their own varieties in their backyards rather than buy them from the shop.  And there are also those who simply trim the Palm trees on their property or decorate their vehicles with thousands of lights and drive them around in parades to show them off to excited crowds gathered on the sidewalks.  Clearly, there are all sorts of ways in which Hawaiians have made the Holidays their own.

So are you getting tired of celebrating Christmas the same old way?  Then hop a flight to Hawaii this year and experience the one-of-a-kind festivities there firsthand.  Okay, maybe not.  But you could still try incorporating some of the island's Christmas traditions at your own gathering.  They even have a "Mele Kalikimaka" song for this time of the year.  It was written in 1949 by R. Alex Anderson and has been recorded by artists as varied as Willie Nelson, Bing Crosby, Bette Midler, Chris Isaak, and Jimmy Buffett.  It was even featured in the contemporary classic National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  And don't forget to incorporate the Hawaiian spirit into your Holiday revelries - on the islands, they tend to be laid back and very generous, including everyone in their gatherings.  Those are qualities we'd all do well to practice, no matter where we celebrate.

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