Christmas in Hawaii


The Christmas tree in the first house we lived in was an odd looking one–branches of long-needled pine that my dad had cut down. He drilled holes in the largest branch and stuck the smaller branches into the holes and made us a Christmas tree.


Only recently I learned that Dad must have made the Christmas tree in 1941, right after the Japanese attack on Christmas trees were shipped to Hawaii from the mainland because the War with Japan had begun.


Later, after we moved in with our Japanese grandmother, I remember standing on the King Street sidewalk as Santa Claus went by on a truck. He threw candy at us, and I remember picking one up off the pavement.


Then we moved to the windward side of Oahu, into our own house.  I remember that our neighbor had flocked Christmas trees. They were so cool, because it didn’t snow in Hawaii and you could look into our neighbor’s window and see winter. We never had our tree flocked, but it was beautiful anyway.


Christmas and New Year’s were important days for us. It was not only a time of giving and receiving presents. We also had a community Christmas pageant, with Joseph and Mary and the Baby Jesus and the Wise Men and the Shepherds. I was a Wise Man.


The holidays were also a time of cooking and inviting people over for food and drink and talking story, as the Hawaiians say. My Mom was a wonderful cook. She started before Christmas and cooked right through the New Year. She cooked Chinese food, Japanese food and Hawaiian food. You could take your pick. As I got older, I had the job of cooking carrots, green beans, and sweet potato tempura.


It was a time for making visits. My Dad’s workmen came over to eat and talk story. My Dad and I would visit his bosses and leave a gift and talk story.


New Year’s Eve was the best time for me as a boy. That’s when everybody burned firecrackers, long, long strands of them. The noise started just before midnight, and went on for more than an hour. When you went outside in the morning, the streets were covered with red firecracker paper.