Hawaiian Christmas Gifts (Christmas History 8)

Malihini Christmas tree

This is the sight that would have been seen by Richmond, a Malihini Christmas tree. This was photographed in 1910, so is contemporary with the journal. It was printed in the Hawaiian Gazette, Vol LIII Number 101 (source: nupepa-hawaii.com)

In Nine Months on a Cruise (published 1912) William E. Richmond spent a very happy Christmas day in Hawaii, where he was able to see the traditional gift-giving from the older residents to the children.  He then enjoyed Christmas dinner and entertainment onboard ship.

Christmas morning dawned bright and clear and, before it was over, we realized that it was our busy day. Sports started after breakfast and lasted all day, only interrupted by the usual corking good dinner. Also in the morning some of us had the pleasure of witnessing the distribution by the “Kamaainas” to the “Malihinis” of presents from the Malihini Christmas tree. (“Malihini” — pronounced mollyheenie, is Hawaiian for stranger or newcomer — used mostly in the latter sense, and “Kamaaina — commaeena, means old resident or oldtimer). This tree, which was placed right out in the open, was an enormous specimen of its kind, and loaded with gifts for the little ones. The hospitality and good will of the Hawaiians (meaning by “Hawaiians” everybody of all races that lives in the islands) is thus displayed toward the children of the Malihinis who have moved in since the preceding Christmas. Around this tree the writer saw children of native, Japanese, Chinese, Ceylonese, Korean, Filipino, Hindu, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, German, English and American, origin — as well as mixtures of any or all — and doubtless there were other nationalities present. And such happy little tots they were as each was handed a bunch of nuts, a toy horn, and some useful little article. Never before have we seen such multi-colored happiness, nor happiness expressed in so many different ways. Some were staid and sober — like little old men and women — in their demeanor, yet happiness shone from their eyes; others ran about in voluble excitement and plainly expressed their delight by word and action; and still others stood timidly, with finger on lips in characteristic childish pose, shyly holding their precious gifts close up to their bodies, It was great — almost as good as being a kid again yourself. Understand, this was not a “charitable” tree, but an expression of goodwill from the oldtimers to the newcomers — one of the little things that justly entitles the oldtimers to call their little burg the “Paradise of the Pacific.”

The trucks and yardarms of the ship were tipped with the customary bit of evergreen, and the messes from the Admiral’s down were decorated with wreaths, palms and evergreens interspersed with bunting and flags. To add to our happiness we were blessed with two mails from home that hit us just right to alleviate any pangs of homesickness, one on the 22nd and the other on Christmas Day. During the afternoon and evening, Captain Harlow (commanding the California) had big doings in the way of a tree, dinner and dance. The quarterdeck of the ship, and even the wharf to which we were made fast, was decorated and brilliantly illuminated with colored incandescents. The good Honolulans who attended will long remember that great time. Santa Claus dropped from his biplane long enough to leave them his whole cargo of horns and whistles (poor chap had to make a special trip for more) and they were faithfully used, as the din created proved.

Our Christmas dinner aboard didn’t amount to much, as may be readily seen by reading the following:

Mulligatawny Soup
Mixed Pickles
Celery
Olives
Salmon au Gratin, Tartare Sauce
Fricandeau of Veal
Braized Cold Ham
Roast Turkey, Sage Dressing, Giblet Dressing
Stewed Cranberries
Asparagus, Drawn Butter
Sweet Potatoes
Assorted Pies
Combination Salad
Cream Cheese
Soda Wafers
Ice Cream
Wine Cake
Bananas
Apples
Christmas Bags
Cigars
Coffee

It was better than nothing, however!


From 1st to 24th December there will be a “Christmas History” article on Windows into History every day, exploring how people spent Christmas in the past through first-hand accounts in forgotten books.  Please come back tomorrow for the next article!

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About Windows into History

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyardview.wordpress.com Administrator of frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in 20th Century, Books, Christmas, Christmas History, Food, History, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Hawaiian Christmas Gifts (Christmas History 8)

  1. Great journal entry. My dad currently lives in Hawaii. He enjoys his Christmas there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing how kids from all the different ethnic groups got along. They’re an example for the rest of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ruth Rawls says:

    Yes, the food was “better than nothing”!
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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