You open your eyes and it’s December 1st. You get out of bed, and it takes a minute for you to wonder how the year went by so quickly as you start your day. You notice that something feels different in the air. Something about walking on the streets makes you feel… different. The trees are brighter, your neighbor's house is fully decorated with lights, and you can relate to that cheerful feeling all around. People feel happier, and it feels good! Once again, Christmas is near, and we immerse ourselves in the season. It’s now December 7th; it has only been seven days since December started, and in Hawai'i, Christmas trees are already sold out. Being able to get together with our family members is something to be thankful for. It is the time to pause and express gratitude. All through the COVID pandemic Hawai'i was one of the states with the most restrictions. Because of that, Christmas is what all of us have been longing for the most. A chance to come together.
But regardless of the economic and social context changing, there are many reasons why Christmas in Hawai'i is extra special. While the coldfront keeps everyone safely inside their homes in other states, the residents of the island plan to spend the whole day on the beach.
Kylie Gentile, art director at Island by Koa Nani, is originally from the island of Maui. When she talks about Hawai'i, you can definitely feel how fortunate she feels to be able to grow up in paradise and enjoy the beach everyday. While Kylie works on her laptop, I am asking her about what it is like to spend Christmas in Hawai'i since this will be my first. As I watch her working on her designs, I ask her how she thinks Christmas in Hawai'i is special.
“There is no other place like Hawai'i! While on the mainland everyone is at home avoiding the cold and snowstorms, we enjoy summer all year long”, she says.
“Christmas in Hawai'i is celebrated on the beaches, wearing a bathing suit and slippers, while enjoying with our relatives. Since I was a child, for me Christmas has been synonymous with spending all day outside: either doing a hike with my family or spending the day at the beach.
Something very typical is to see numerous local families with their tents and their barbecue on the beach listening to music and sharing a great meal. After dinner, we get ready for Christmas. The next day, we wake up and share our gifts.
It is a very special moment because nobody is working, and we all have the time to share with our loved ones”.
“What are the typical foods that your family usually cooks?” I ask curiously.
She looks at me thinking about the question for a moment.
"It depends. Something related to the prevailing culture is eaten in each house. Typical Hawaiian dishes such as kalua pork, lau lau, poi, and haupia desserts are eaten in the homes of certain families. There is also a potluck, where everybody brings something different to share. It is a very nice moment to experience every year."
As I continue to think about my own plans for this Christmas, I was able to catch up with my other co-worker, Seaoni. Like Kylie, she has grown up and lived most of her life in Hawai'i, but on the island of O'ahu.
Seaoni, SEO and brand management specialist at Island by Koa Nani, has admitted to me on occasion how nice it is for her to say that Hawai'i is her home.
Trying to find out more about what Christmas represents in Hawai'i for the people who were born in this place, I ask her without hesitation.
"Seaoni, tell me something synonymous with spending Christmas in Hawai'i? What is interesting about it?" I exclaim.
She looks at me in surprise and makes a gesture with her mouth as if trying to search for answers inside her mind. The wind can be heard hitting the window. Definitely, the Hawaiian winter is on the rise. The rain accompanies the office climate, which has not stopped in three days. While I drink my hot tea, I wait for Seaoni to answer me.
"The rainy half of the year. It pours day in and day out, almost all day. But we love it that way. The thunderstorms are exciting and let us know that Christmas is almost here,” she utters enthusiastically.
Seaoni looks down as she searches for more answers to my question. The glimmer in her eyes tell me that she wants to share with me the things that she loves the most about spending the holidays on the island.
“I love that lights decorate palm trees and houses everywhere. We sing Christmas carols Hawaiian style. For example, the songs ‘Mele Kalikimaka’ and ‘12 days of Christmas’. Also, we can enjoy a 50 foot Christmas tree, and everybody is invited to go see Shaka Santa and Mrs. Clause at the Honolulu City of Lights”, she claims.
While I finish writing this article, I realize that although I was born in Argentina, Hawai'i will always be my home even though I didn't grow up here. Part of my ohana and my heart live in these islands and I could not imagine spending Christmas in a place more beautiful than this.
Without a doubt, we are all excited to make some of the best memories of 2021 this holiday season. We will get together with family and friends to decorate the tree, take lots of photos whether perfect or embarrassing, enjoy time with coworkers, and appreciate the rain and cold.
We will also give thanks for good health, loved ones, and all the lessons that this year leaves.
May the Christmas spirit fill you with joy! Life is much happier when we can share with others.