Spending Christmas in a tropical climate can be a little strange if you’re not used to it. It’s a little hard to describe, and you wouldn’t think that in Hawaii people would go all out over Christmas, but they do. And then some.
After a lifetime of Christmases spent in Minnesota, where there’s lots of snow, and cold, and a chimney for Santa to come down, I spent my first Christmas on Oahu about 30 years ago.
For starters, imagine blow-up Santas and his reindeer on lush green lawns; buying Christmas Cards with photos of Santa surfing, palm trees wrapped with red and green lights, and listening to the all-Christmas carol radio station from Maui with the top down in sunny, 82-degree weather.
And then there’s Costco. Normally a busy place anyway, leading up to the holidays, the place is packed with people in shorts and flip-flops (slippahs) loading carts with the usual Christmas candy, fake Christmas trees, and local items like large containers of nori (seaweed) to bring good luck. They also vie for the best Ahi for making sashimi.
Upon finding I would be spending the holidays alone, new acquaintances insisted I spend it with them. That was one party, bruddah (brother) I tell you. It was held in a neighborhood on the North Shore where it was hard to tell where one party started and another one ended. Carports were overflowing with long tables filled with platters of sushi, chicken, long rice, pork adobo, lau lau, Spam musubi, and somewhere there was a pig roasting underground.
There were drinks, a guava soda, Budweiser (along with the Spam, a hanger-on from WWII) presents, movies on large screen TVs, and children (keiki) waiting for Santa. The sights and smells were all quite strange, I missed my family, but was overwhelmed by the generosity everyone shared.
Then out came the Karaoke machines. It didn’t matter if you could sing or not, that was obvious, the point was to have fun. The singing and laughter went on late into the night.
I was reminded of this when I went back to the Big Island, where I used to live, for a vacation early in December. This was the first real vacation in at least six years, as I’ve been going to Minnesota twice a year to visit my mother and family.
Signs of Christmas were everywhere. Houses were so loaded with Christmas lights and decorations Santa wouldn’t need Rudolph to light the way. At the Hilton hotel in Waikoloa, the large dolphin statues were adorned with sleigh bells and red Santa hats. Long’s Drug Store carried boxes of Christmas cards, and every kind of decoration.
And it was 82 and sunny.
But on the Big Island there can be snow, on top of Mauna Kea. You can be swimming in the ocean, and look back at the mountain with its snow-topped peak. There are also rascals who drive up to the top and come back with a pickup truck full of the white stuff, and shovel it out onto a spot, like, middle of the street or a crowded parking lot.
That’s my favorite part.
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You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or email@example.com.
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