Merry Christmas: Sounds of Hawaii

During Christmas season palm trees are decorated with lights in the Normandy Isle neighborhood in Miami Beach, Florida, USAWe checked in this week to find out more about how Christmas happens in Hawaii. One of the topics that came up in our conversation with Siobhan was music.  The same familiar carols, hymns, and holiday songs are heard throughout the islands.  White Christmas drifts out of the speakers right there under the twinkle lit palm trees and Winter Wonderland is heard at the beach side pig roast.  But there are some differences too, like the Hawaiian Twelve Days of Christmas. For most Americans the Hawaiian Christmas song is Mele Kalikimaka.

Hawaiia Santa


This ukulele driven Christmas classic was written in 1949 but Robert Alex Anderson, known for his uniquely Hawaiian sounds.  The song gathered lots of interest and many fans from the start.  The popular 1950 radio recording featured Bing Crosby & the Andrew Sisters.  The song’s name is known as the Hawaiian way to say Merry Christmas.  Not entirely true. It is a translation, of sorts. To get the whole story behind the name we go back to 1778 when Christmas first came to the Islands with the arrival of Captain Cook.  The holiday did not catch on immediately.  It would not become wide-spread until the arrival of New England missionaries in the 1820s.  These missionaries helped to translate the language and to create a written version of the Island tongue.  The words Merry and Christmas were spoken by the Hawaiian natives and due to the differences in language sounded like Mele Kalikimaka.  The terms are a Hawaiian phonetic translation of the English phrase.  Simple.  The lyrics are simple too- basically a repetition of the same two stanzas:
     Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
     On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day
     That’s the island greeting that we send to you
     From the land where palm trees sway

     Here we know Christmas will be green & bright
     The sun to shine by day & all the stars at night
     Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way 
     To say Merry Christmas to you

It really is a happy, cheery little song.  Listen to it’s carefree lilt and imagine a warm breezy holiday picnic on the beach.  This version by Bette Midler should help set the mood.  Aloha!!

HNY HawaiiI learned the Hawaiian phrase for Happy New Year too- Hau’oli Makahiki Hou.  The phrase grew from the period or resting and fasting with 4 months of no war and no conflicts.  The term Makahiki translates to year.  Han’oli translate to Happy, and Makahiki has a track on year.  I will be looking into more foreign language faves in our area for Christmas.

Christmas in the Great Depression

tacl_cards6On the Writer’s Almanac today, Garrison Keillor noted that on this day in 1939, John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath, a novel that created sweeping public outcry (both good and bad) and won Steinbeck the Pulitzer Prize.  The Grapes of Wrath was the best-selling book in 1939 and is listed 10th in Modern Library’s 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century.  In addition, today is also called “Black Sunday” because one of the worse dust storms of the Depression began on this day in 1935.

I realized then that Jeremy and I have never really explored Christmas during this difficult time in American history. In fact, I imagine that the poverty of time brought out the true meaning of Christmas.    After a little snooping about, I discovered there is a wealth of information about Christmas, even if the people of the time were poor. The Depression Era Christmas card (1932) in this photo features a chicken with only one feather in his tail (it was a dyed feather attached to the card).  It’s typical of the representations of Christmas at the time.

In December 2012, blogger Sam Moore posted his research into Depression Era Christmas celebrations on the website, Farm Collector, combining his parents’ personal experiences with information from farm magazines of the time period. One featured gifts a person could sew or make from scraps of fabric or soap. One magazine suggested that a single bar of white soap could be softened and cut into smaller slivers and wrapped individually. (It reminds me of hotel-sized bars of soap.)  A washcloth could be made from pieces of gauze sewed together.

Baylor University’s website features two brief audio stories about Christmas during the Great Depression.  One retired professor described his Christmas, ” ‘Why don’t we kidnap Santa Claus? He’s got all these gifts, and he bypasses us. . . So we went to bed on Christmas Eve early. . .So anyway, we climbed out the window—out in the country—with a rope that we were going to tie up Santa Claus. (laughter).”

Last fall, Katherine Lasky published Dear America: Christmas After All.  It is historical fiction about a 9-year-old who experiences Christmas during the Great Depression.  The reviews are all very positive, and the book might make a nice gift for a young reader (7 – 12), perhaps American Girl doll age.  I’ve included a link to the Scholastic website.  Even though it is a work of fiction, many of the events and places are authentic and are based on her relatives’ experiences.

I think I’ve just scratched the surface of this topic.  I’ll be back with more about Christmas in the Great Depression.

Photo Cards: a time capsule

Over the next week, you and I will be taking down and packing away our decorations.  As I specialize in recycled Christmas cards, the ones from this year will be added to my stash, but how about the photo cards?

I like to keep them from year to year and hang them in groups by family.  It’s fun to see how they change and grow.  This article in The Atlantic captures one couple and 40 years of their Christmas photos.  They posed year after year in front of their tree, with their household around them.  Something in these photos is far more honest than our pre-packaged, touched up, sweater-matching efforts of today.


In a modern take on the same topic, blogger Kristi, at “I should be mopping the floor” demonstrated her photo gallery wall.  It’s a beautiful tribute to her family over the years.  I wish I had started this when my boys were young! Maybe it’s not too late for you?


Another simple way to save photo cards that can be a craft with a young child, is to create an annual photo book bound with small rings.  Here’s a link to a step by step tutorial posted at HoneyBear Lane, and I’m sure you can find additional ideas in a similar style.

christmas card book  (12)


Send an eCard? Yes!

Jeremy is shaking his head in disbelief and he hasn’t even read my post yet!mistletoe-madness-christmas-ecard

I know. I know.  If you aren’t willing to put pen to paper and lick the stamp, where’s the effort to give someone a genuine Christmas greeting? (Heck. We don’t even lick stamps anymore!)

The Christmas cards are trickling in this season–it’s December 12, and I’ve received just a few–five to be exact.  I received one in early November with a nice letter.  The second came in late November, from Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Ken.  They always do a creative write-up of their year in review.  There’s a photo card from the Robinsons–including the addition of Sarah’s husband-to-be.  Maybe the bulk of my cards are still in the mail.

I remember the “good ole’ days” when the four kids were lined up, each with a folding snack table in front of us, signing our names in assembly-line style to the hundred or more Christmas cards my mom was sending out.  Then she would write a sincere and heart-felt message on each one (no joke–she really wrote nice things), and one of us got to lick the envelope and stamp.  Frankly, I’ve always liked the taste of envelope glue.

I’m one of those who doesn’t send cards anymore.  I have a bunch of excuses–the cost, the protection of the environment, I didn’t have a decent photo with the boys and Roger, no time, whatever.

Yesterday, Roger sent The Yule Log a link with 10 free e-cards.  At first, I was just going to take a look, no commitment.  I have to investigate what I will be writing about.  Then, I was hooked.  I sent e-cards to everyone.  FREE is a good incentive.  Also, one two of the sites, I didn’t even need to create an account.

My favorite for the music, interactive card is the free e-cards from Hallmark.  I sent that one to Denise because it was very sentimental, and she used to cry at the drop of a hat.  She has followed The Yule Log 365 for nearly 365 days, so she deserves my marginal effort at a Christmas card.  Hallmark made me sign up to send the card, and when I went back to the site, I couldn’t find the FREE  ones any more.  It was only cards with a $12 subscription.  But $12 for a whole year is pretty affordable.

The most clever FREE card came from PINGG–it’s a Christmas pie chart.  This is a site similar to EVITE. I had to sign up for this site, too.  After the initial sign up, I could use the site to send invitations as well as cards.   I also sent a FREE card from Punchbowl, another site that has options for party planning and more.  This card had a digital envelope with a digital stamp.  The stamp was customizable.  I figure if the sender gets caught up in the customizing a digital stamp, then that borders on obsessive.

The 3D card I sent from Jimpix was pretty cool–no sign up.  That’s a bonus for this lazy girl.  The type swirled around with metallic shimmer.  I sent Roger a card from someecards because the message on the card was snarky and about marketing.  When a woman sends her husband an ecard for any other reason than blog research, that’s a little odd. was straight up easy.  The cards are simple and cute.  I didn’t have to make an account.  I fail in the area of knowing what a “hipster” is, but the card was fun a clever.  Overall, I think I’d send cards from that site again.

If you made it this far in the blog, you’ll probably send an e-card or two of your own.  If that’s your plan, send one to  Would love to hear from you digitally!