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Merry Island Christmases
By Rick Millikan
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

Hawaiian Christmases have become a family tradition. Every December, we settle into condo living. Breathing in flowery perfumed air, we begin ventures to farmers’ markets gathering tasty local produce. Each sunny morning, exotic bird choristers coo, chitter, chirp and warble from flowering trees while we savour luscious apple bananas, pineapples and papayas on our verandah. Lunches become sunny beach picnics.

2.Another day Maui’s Olowalu beach offers another picnic

On Maui, we initially brought a small artificial Christmas tree complete with tiny lights and decorations. In later years, we foraged branches from island Ironwood trees. Tropical fish and St. Nick doodads now dangle from these skinny Yuletide limbs: one saucy Santa plays a ukulele, another mounts a surfboard, a third straddles a porpoise. And my favorite rides a bicycle!

6. A beach chair on Napili Bay suggests jolly Santa is taking a swim (courtesy: Napili Kai Beach Resort)

Mr. Claus adapts well to Hawaii. One year, a helicopter landed on our resort’s plush lawn. Out popped Santa, complete with white beard, red toque and bag of goodies. He shouts a jolly aloha, imparting hello…and love. When our toddler granddaughter asks her dad about Santa’s red t-shirt and shorts, our son grins, “Like us, he dresses for comfort!”

Holidays include strolls from Kihei’s Mana Kai, along white sand Keawakapu Beach to Wailea. Long sunny walks culminate in swank resorts’ grand lobbies, where we admire spectacular gingerbread houses. Returning home, we study endemic ‘happy face’ spiders. These smiling creatures must relish their life in paradise. And from a rocky point, we spot humpback whales breaching in the distance. Like us, they arrive around Christmastime seeking peace.

3.Hawaiian Resort Xmas Décor is typically simple.

My son, daughter and I snorkel above Maui’s coral reefs. Off one Wailea beach, we observe exotic fish in an area nicknamed Turtle Town. Sighting a distinguished turtle resting under a rocky ledge, my daughter dubs him “Mayor”. Diving to the bottom we pause, listening for haunting whale songs that can be heard underwater for miles.

For lanai dinners, our now adult children love to barbeque Mahi-Mahi, Ahi tuna, ribs…and gourmet burgers. Or they serve huli-huli chicken from the deli! Instead of eggnog, we sip POG, a juicy blend of papaya, orange and guava. In recent years, the Big Island of Hawaii provides new Christmas ventures. In downtown Kailua, a congregation in the islands’ oldest church delights us by singing familiar carols in melodic Hawaiian.

5.Hawaii Kailua Town Xmas Tree

Exploring south Kona, we find an island heritage site, “Place of Refuge” and learn of a Hawaiian festival similar to Christmas. In December, carved wooden statues called tikis wear white cloth and represent gods. Pathways loop us under palm trees past airy huts and along a crescent beach to a thatched temple. Lawbreakers—men who stepped on chiefs’ shadows, women who ate bananas— sought sanctuary here. Fortunately, priests exonerated these survivors. Heading to an adjacent beach, our visit ends with snorkeling in pristine waters.

On the high cliff above, the “Painted Church” perches on a steep green slope. Beside it, plaster shepherds and magi surround a thatched manger with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. Inside, biblical landscapes adorn walls, pillars and ceiling. These murals painted by priests instructed island worshippers. As we exit, green geckos peek from blossoming bromeliads, bestowing good luck.

1. Painted Church Xmas Creche

Nearby Paleaku Peace Gardens exudes more spirituality. Red Hawaiian ti plants fend off bad spirits and one of two Hawaiian shrines honour guardian ancestors. In the northern section, floral shrubbery surrounds three labyrinths, including a Native American Fire Circle and Medicine Wheel. Early Christians and pagans used these circling pathways as ‘tools’ for quieting the mind.

Middle Eastern religions share this Eden. In this harmonious garden, we reflect on how many Israelis combine Hanukah, Ramadan and Christmas into a joyful Festival of Three Holidays. Near the entrance is the symbolic Kaballah, the Jewish tree of life. A further Islamic mosaic depicts its symbolic moon, star and loving heart. Nearby, the Baha’i’s colourful nine-pointed star decorates a platform. And amid the floral splendor, Christian shrines venerate the mystical doctrines of the Rosacrucians and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Royal palms flank the central lawn that leads to a white Buddhist temple. A nearby Bodhi tree evokes another December holiday: Bodhi Day memorializing Buddha’s enlightenment. Just beyond, a stone statue of Hindu god Shiva sits under a mahogany tree. Nearby, long turquoise budded jade vines drift above the Hindu goddess of fertility, symbolizing love and divine strength. Having many divinities, Hindus celebrate twenty festive holidays. As Jesus is recognized as an Avatar of Divine Love, Christmas provides another good reason for celebrations.

4. Hawaii Picnic @ Hookena Beach

Hawaii provides extraordinary family holidays. Sharing healthful ventures and discoveries, our Christmases overflow with loving aloha.



• Look at Maui & Hawaii possibilities at

• Investigate family Maui stays: www.napilikai.

• Activities?

See Drums of the Pacific Luau & Astronomy:

• See Kapalua’s trail system at and unique arboretum at

• See Fair Wind’s fun and info-taining adventures at Their manta ray cruise concludes with soup, warm rolls and hot drinks.

PHOTOS by Rick Millikan unless otherwise attributed.:

1. Painted Church Xmas Creche
2. Another day Maui’s Olowalu beach offers another picnic
3. Hawaiian Resort Xmas Décor is typically simple.
4. Hawaii Picnic @ Hookena Beach
5. Hawaii Kailua Town Xmas Tree
6.A beach chair on Napili Bay suggests jolly Santa is taking a swim (courtesy: Napili Kai Beach Resort:

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