Mele Kalikimaka is the traditional Hawaiian greeting of Merry Christmas. Native Hawaiians had some difficulty with their pronunciation of the English version and nowadays Mele Kalikimaka is bandied about with delight every December, accompanied by popular Christmas carols and an original blend of Hawaiian style Christmas decorations. Santa is frequently spotted in Hawaiian gardens lounging about in an outrigger canoe, cocktail in one hand and toy sack in the other.
Palm trees are decorated with tinsel and Christmas stars, restaurants play Christmas songs and offer Christmas fare on the menu, and locals celebrate the festive season as they celebrate everything else in life, with enthusiastic abandon and faultlessly stylish hospitality.
Christmas only arrived in the islands along with the Europeans. Prior to that time, around December, Hawaiians gave their traditional thanks to mother earth for providing them with food (Makahiki) so Christmas festivities became an extension of their own celebrations. In those days the party lasted for around four months, which was quite useful as during the festivities wars were strictly prohibited and islanders minded their p’s and q’s somewhat. Sort of a friendly Hawaiian version of an ASBO.
With the arrival of other nationalities at Christmas, Hawaii began to include guests’ traditional delicacies and treats in the Christmas menu, adding sushi, lumpia, tamales and even coconut pudding to the selection.
At Christmas you might find yourself invited to a lu’au in your neighbour’s backyard, where they might offer imu – a pig roasted in an underground pit – not the sort of thing you would serve on toast one supposes! Imus continue far into the night, lit by the Hawaiian version of Christmas lights and rocking to the sound of ukuleles and guitars.
Sounds great doesn’t it. And the best thing about Christmas in this part of the world is the clement weather, so the kids can still spend time on the beach, the sand and surf is still on offer and there are still loads of things to do during the day. In Hawaii, Santa arrives in a canoe, barefoot, sun lotion in hand, and with his trousers rolled up. Well why not?