Before I even write this post, allow me to lead off with the extremely enormous disclaimer that I in no way suggest anybody elect to spend Christmas alone on an island unless (1) you are grieving/in mourning and just want to be left the heck alone, (2) there is no possible way you could stomach even another minute of your family, or (3) you're a masochist. If you happen to find yourself in that most unfortunate position and fit none of the above three categories that most likely means you are like me, a transplanted resident (NOT to be confused w/ “local,” which dozens of people will remind you of daily) that can't afford the exorbitant time/financial cost of trying to get away around the holidays.

Seriously…you need a good $1500 and six days off MINIMUM to even make it worth your while.

All that being said, if you do find yourself here for the holidays, there are certainly small things that can be done to make the experience all the better. Some of these include attending the Hawaii Bowl (were talking $10 tickets, front-row parking, seating anywhere in the stadium ya want, and this year we even had two higher profile teams in Oregon State and Boise State), walking through Honolulu City Lights (and eating Leonards malasadas while youre there, of course), hitting the beach (see this week's photo), and the best thing might just be getting out enjoying the one day reprieve from the nation's worst traffic.

Sitting at the very top of my list though, and something I would unequivocally suggest to anybody in a similar position, is to make your way down to Ala Moana Beachpark for sunrise service.

There are two beaches in Honolulu (more or less), Waikiki, which is a zoo packed tight w/ tourists in speedos, and Ala Moana. AM is a local hangout, w/ a very chill vibe, a nice lagoon for swimming and paddling, and a sandbard probably a half mile or more in length. In the middle of it sits a large concrete spread, w/ picnic tables, grills, etc., which is where the service is held. I stumbled across it two years ago during a morning run and have made a point of attending each year since.

The service is hosted by a non-denominational church somewhere in the city, and features a speaker more than a preacher. This year, the gentlemen gave a short talk about debunking the myth that Christmas is for the kids, that people of all ages can enjoy the season and the underlying reasons for it. I found the talk especially poignant because it brought to light the over-commercialization of the Christmas season (a stone's throw from the state's major shopping mall no less) and how many have lost sight of things, w/o actually saying any of that. It was thought provoking w/o being judgmental or condemning.

(The grandson of a Baptist pastor, I have nothing against a good round of fire and brimstone inspired guilt, but I realize it isnt for everybody)

The real star of the show though, and the reason I enjoy it so much, is that the bulk of the time is spent w/ a Native Hawaiian band performing Christmas carols. For those that aren't familiar w/ the Hawaiian language, it consists of just twelve letters (h, k, l, m, n, p, w and the five vowels) and is spoken in a rhythmic sequence that is mesmorizing. Everyday conversation can be cool to hear, but Silent Night (Po La'ie) on a ukelele and slack-chord guitar is nothing short of beautiful. (Here, check out this video from Youtube. It's just a homemade performance, but the girl straight rocks it)

I know I've mentioned before that I don't believe in forcing religion on anybody, and make great pains not to mention here or in my writing. At the same time though, I do believe most people appreciate spirituality, which is something Hawaii does very well. Whether it is the strong Asian influence (I hope Im not stereotyping here…I just know there is a strong Buddhist influence there), the laid-back nature in general, or something else entirely, I don't know. Between the Valley of the Temples, the Lantern Floating, Punchbowl Cemetery, and a host of other moments like the sunrise service though, it is quite pervasive and quite incredible.

I know it greatly enhanced my own Christmas experience, and hope that all of you found something similar, whatever it may be.

Mele Kalikimak

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