A Traditional Hawaiian Christmas


Hawaiians didn't celebrate Christmas prior to the arrival of Europeans, but it was during this same time of the year that they traditionally honored the earth for giving them plenty to eat. This period of resting and feasting was called Makahiki (mah-kah-HEE- kee). It lasted for 4 months, and no wars or conflicts were allowed during this time. Because makahiki also means "year", we say "Happy New Year" as "Hau'oli Makahiki Hou"(how-OH-lee mah-kah-hee-kee ho).

After they embraced Christianity it was only natural that they adapted some of the traditions of Makahiki to the celebration of Christmas, and as the years passed many other cultures arriving in Hawai`i added some of their own twists. So today, along with the candy and fruitcake, you'll be likely to find treats like: sushi, lumpia, tamales, manapua (mah-nah-POO-ah), poke (POH-keh) and coconut pudding served alongside the turkey. (Manapua are sweet, tender steamed rolls usually filled with chicken or pork; poke is the Hawaiian version of ceviche, bits of very fresh fish or shellfish usually marinated in soy sauce (shoyu), sesame oil, a little rice vinegar and various spices.)

Sometimes Christmas dinner consists of a traditional lu'au, complete with a pig roasted in an underground pit, chicken long rice (chicken noodle soup, Hawaiian style), lomilomi salmon, and poi. A less formal get-together is called kanikapila (kah-nee-kah-PEE-lah), which means "to make music". You'd be hard pressed in Hawai`i to find any informal party that didn't include singing, guitars, ukuleles (oo-koo-LEH-leh), and probably some impromptu hula as well! Our Christmas songs include the traditional ones, often sung in the beautiful and melodic Hawaiian language, as well as many that are completely original to Hawai`i-- such as Mele Kalikimaka, of course.

After the meal? Well, if we can still move we'll probably go down to the beach to watch the kids trying out the new surf or boogie boards that Santa brought them for Christmas. Join us, won't you?

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