After all the limping and zig-zagging, cursing and agony to get here two days late, we had our Christmas on Oahu. I don’t know what I expected, but I now know this. Christmas on Oahu is not like Christmas on the mainland, USA. It is almost like having no Christmas at all.
You see almost no Christmas trees lit up in house windows. Shopping malls string a few lights around a tree or two, maybe, but that’s it. Certainly there is no music, no sounds of “A White Christmas,” no Santa Clauses with kids on their laps, nary a single “ho-ho-ho.” And if you walk into any retail store, it is like going there on any other day of the year. Even on Christmas Eve. No big rush, no last-minute panic shopping. It’s all very layed back.
There were some token efforts. At Hale’iwa Joe’s restaurant in Hale’iwa we found surfboards decorated with colorful wreaths. And along the Kamehameha Highway west of Honolulu the local electric company had made a large tinsel sign of gold, wishing everyone Merry Christmas in Hawaiian: “Mele Kalikimaka.”
The spiritual side of Christmas is ignored completely. There is no mention of God or Jesus. And I did not see a single Nativity Scene. Not even in front of a church, not at St. Peter and Paul, a Catholic Church above Waimea Beach on North Shore. Nor by a Lutheran Church near Wai’anae along the western shore. Nowhere.
At Honolulu Hale, the seat of city and county government, there is an annual display called Honolulu City Lights. It was a grand disappointment to at least one Christian who wrote the local newspaper, the Star-Adverister. He enjoyed the lights, but penned, “The major flaw every year, however, is the fact there is no trace, no reference to Christ.”
A cashier at the busy Foodland grocery in Pupukea told us, that elsewhere in the U.S. they know it’s Christmas when it snows, but on North Shore they know it’s Christmas when the waves are high. It was Christmas Eve and the store was staying open until 11 p.m. It didn’t seem to matter to our cashier or any of the other employees.
As for Nebra and I, we awoke late on Christmas Day at a place called Turtle Bay. It’s on the opposite end of the island from Honolulu and Waikiki. North Shore, they call it. Up here they dislike tourism and despise land developers. “Nuff hotels,” reads a sign along the highway. This is a land of big waves, the biggest on Oahu. The largest town in the area, Hale’iwa, proclaims it is “The Surfing Capital of The World.” The Triple Crown of Surfing finished up a few weeks ago on three beaches west of us.
At our small condo, we slipped from the bedroom loft into a living room with no Christmas tree, no lights, no ornaments, no presents. It was almost like any other day in the year. Except it was 77 F. outside and mostly sunny here at the top of Oahu. We opened up the large windows in front and the kitchen door in back and allowed a balmy almost sweet breeze to waft through the condo. Beautiful puffs of cumulus dotted a deep-blue sky.
After a homemade breakfast of oatmeal, toast and jelly, coffee, tea, and some OJ, we set out on a hike out to Kahuku Point, the northernmost spot on Oahu. It was a little over a mile out there and it was magical walking on the sandy trail under a dense canopy of palms and a zillion other trees and plants I’d never seen before.
Kahuku Point’s history was engaging. It was the site of an old World War II military air base, 1942 until the late Forties. The place was protected by ground troops who built bunkers , or pillboxes, along the shore. Two of the runways lay below the lush fairways of the resort’s two golf courses, I read.
The point itself is nothing but an extremely rough coral reef, gray with sharp edges and little pools of rainwater. We got out to within about 20 yards of the very tip of Kahuku Point and turned back. The reef was too dangerous. Breakers rolled in from the northern Pacific 10-20 feet hight and beat on the reef.
It would’ve taken a half hour of careful steps and balancing to get out there. It wasn’t worth it. The only other humans out there were two men and a woman, all fishing off the east side with long poles. I waved at one of the men, and he waved back. The woman caught a small fish, Nebra said.
On the way back down from Kahuku Point, we found a touch of Christmas along the shore. A young girl was squatted by the sea in her bathing suit, a Santa’s cap of red and white pulled down casually with her pony-tail exposed. At least there was that.
At the end of the day, Nebra cooked up a nice Christmas supper of baked ham, Okinawa red sweet potatoes and green beans. We hit the sack too soon for the cheesecake.
It was an unusual Christmas for us. But I’m far from complaining. In fact it was a nearly perfect Christmas as far as I was concerned.