Mele Kalikimaka! Merry Christmas to one and all! There is nothing that compares to having Christmas in Hawaii...some of the differences you expect: no snow, lovely warm weather, no coats or boots cluttering up the porch... but some of the differences can really take you by surprise;
- $95.00 for a tree! And then the tree is 4-6 feet tall & looks like a cross between a pine and a palm! (Norfolk Pines are very cool but a little challenging to decorate as they have 4-5 branches located laterally around the trunk every 12-18 inches and each branches has no other branches so it almost looks like a palm frond, there is usually about a dozen or so branches total, the ornaments end up being hung in a line from the trunk out to the tip of the branch, cute but not what mainlanders are used to.)
- By the second week of December all bulk deliveries have been made...which means that if you wait until December 19th to buy presents, decorations or Christmas dinner...you may be out of luck. Almost everything is delivered to the islands by ship and the merchants do not over order because the profit margin is just to tight to discount the left overs by 50% the day after Christmas. If you are shopping and you see something you want, get it! Even if you have to put it on the credit card because it will not be there the next day/next week and there will not be "more coming in". Empty shelves by December 22nd are not uncommon.
- A traditional Hostess gift is a holiday wreath; sounds the same as the mainland on the surface but, in Hawaii you pick and gather your wreath supplies your self if possible (with respect and care for the aina) and it bears no resemblance to pine cones and Fir boughs. Ferns, moss, annato fruit, baby Ohia leaves, bamboo sprigs, etc... are the norm and you need to mist it every day. Usually a group will get together to hunt for supplies and then create the wreathes, it is a social event and some times it will be the same group that meets for decades, they will even have special permission to gather from certain pieces of land (this permission can be handed down through the generations or even thru different landowners!). It really is a mark of extreme favor to receive these special wreathes (I still remember when I was given my first one!)
- And on the subject of gifts...we have a tradition introduced by the Japanese culture called, "Omiyage" this tradition is no longer performed the way it was in Japan (it originally was a little souvenir brought back from a trip) but it transformed in Hawaii and now runs rampant! Especially around the Holidays! You may not leave some ones house with out a little goodie being given to you and it is acceptable but inadvisable to drop by a home with out some little "excuse gift" ("Oh, I just wanted to drop this off for you, we had extra, do you have room? it's nothing much...", meanwhile, it is 47 blood red anthuriums arranged with white Orchids in a ti leaf wrapped pot that took 2 hours to create! And you would give up the living room couch just to keep the beautiful creation in your home!) Auwe! To much aloha!
- Water proofing the Christmas lights. They may look pretty shimmering from under the puddle that used to be the front yard but its not very good for them. Hang em high! And yes it is acceptable to continue their use all year long, they just get different names, IE; Easter lights, 4th of July lights, Labor day lights...
- And one of my favorite differences...the party doesn't end just because Christmas is over! We have many different cultures here and we all join in the fun...a great one is the Japanese New Year, we give gifts of the Kudomatsu (a special arrangement of Pine, Bamboo, Plum and what have you that is placed next to the front door or front gate to ward of evil influences and encourage the positive spirits for the New years work, very pretty and very fun to make, similar to making and giving the Christmas wreathes.) and we clean, clean, clean the house to start the New Year out, well... new. We then let off the fireworks! So many fireworks that you can hardly see across town and if you have friends that live in the country you drop your pets off at their house for the night.
There are many differences in celebrating the holidays in Hawaii, but the most important things remain; gathering friends and family together to reaffirm the appreciation we have of each other...in other words, Good Will and Peace On Earth! Mele Kalikimaka everyone!