A Bright, Joyful Island-style Christmas

“Keiki in the park, the sun is setting. Mama’s in the kitchen, beef stew’s a cooking. Papa’s busy making room for all the presents ‘cuz everybody knows that Santa’s coming soon …”

The lyrics of Christmas Time Again, Aloha, written by my brother Nephi and his best bud, entertainer Iva Kinimaka, come to life just about this time every year. For one thing, it accelerates my journey down my Christmas lane of memories. I certainly recall my Mama’s down-home holiday cooking, which included her broke-da-mouth Samoan puligi (steamed spiced cake topped with a stellar custard sauce). I cherish thoughts of listening to Elvis and Nat “King” Cole’s The Christmas Song, Mom and Dad leading us in singing uplifting hymns, literally rocking with relatives around the Christmas tree, and always closing with a family prayer to conclude the evening in our cozy living room. On the athletic front, it meant that I was fully engaged in my favorite sport, either through playing or watching basketball. We went to great lengths to send out special Christmas messages and gifts to friends and loved ones. No question, we were definitely raised to believe that ’tis better to give than to receive.

Point is, so many people today get caught up in fancy feasts, high-end gift giving and shopping beyond their means, in line or online. Oftentimes, holiday cheer is dominated by the holiday blues. I lost my beloved sister Titi this year; she took great delight in making Christmas special for our ohana. Dealing with the parting of a loved one helps me come to the realization that when the very people you care about are no longer around, the best present in life is truly “the present” – as in “today.” The best gifts are time given and heart-to-heart moments spent – things you can’t really put a price tag on.

Speaking of things you can’t really place a value on, because of the joy that it brings to thousands of island residents and visitors, the Honolulu City Lights festivities come to mind. I know the five mayors who have had the honor of presiding over this fun-filled family event regard this holiday experience as one of their treasured memories in office. I will always point to the couple of occasions that I shared with Mayor Frank Fasi and Joyce lighting up the Norfolk tree with my wife, Gail, as one of those classic moments because he was the founder of this 29-year tradition which enabled me to lead the packed audience in saying, “Thank you, Mr. Mayor.”

And each mayor – with the strong support of dedicated city employees, the Friends of Honolulu City Lights, corporate sponsors and countless volunteers – has been able to place his own imprimatur on this magnificent tradition. Mayor Jeremy Harris, for instance, started Kapolei City Lights, and I expanded upon the highly popular Honolulu Public Workers Electric Lights Parade at Kapolei, started the Christmas Prayer Service at Kawaihao Church and launched a City Lights celebration on the Windward side.

This is certainly an activity you don’t have to put a hole in your pocketbook to get into the spirit of Christmas. Take the time to view and smell the decorated wreaths, evergreens and Christmas trees sponsored by various county agencies at Honolulu Hale, and venture onto the lawn to appreciate the bigger-than-life displays, including Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele. Hours of operation are from 7:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. between now and the first week of January. If you live in West Oahu and are in need of a little Christmas cheer, trek on down to Kapolei Hale and enjoy a similar display.

Other free activities to brighten your holidays on the weekend before Christmas:

EWA BEACH CHRISTMAS PARADE, Saturday, Dec. 21 – Sponsored by the Ewa Beach Lions Club, the parade will be held from 10 a.m. to noon. It begins at Ilima Intermediate School and travels along Fort Weaver Road.

MANOA COMMUNITY CHRISTMAS PARADE, Saturday, Dec. 21 – East Manoa Lions Club holds its parade also on the same day as Ewa Beach, from 5 to 7 p.m. It starts at Noelani School, to Woodlawn Drive, through Kolowalu Street, along East Manoa Road, Lowrey Avenue, then to Manoa Road and ends up at Manoa Park.

HOLIDAY FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS, Friday, Dec. 20, Saturday, Dec. 21- If you feel patriotic, embark on the Holiday Festival of Lights tour, which is a cruise around Pearl Harbor to see ships and submarines illuminated. Sponsored by the National Park Service and the Navy, tours are available in half-hour segments from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 21. Tickets are released on a first-come first-served basis free of charge beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center. You are encouraged, in the spirit of Christmas, to bring canned goods for local charities to be collected on site.

HONOLULU TABERNACLE 2013 CHRISTMAS CONCERT, Saturday, Dec. 21, and Sunday, Dec. 22 – It’s not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but the voices of the Concert Adult Choir and Youth and Children’s Choir are always angelic. You can enjoy this free concert, now in its 24th year, at the Honolulu Tabernacle at 1560 S. Beretania St., which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Concert starts at 7 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and there is no charge for parking between Banyan Tree Plaza and the Tabernacle. The concert also will feature a symphony orchestra conducted by Craig Young, with special musical performances by the award-winning Drill Team Hawaii directed by his wife, Penny Young.

CHRISTMAS MUSIC ON KKOL RADIO HONOLULU, Saturday, Dec. 21 – Finally, if you want to take a break from shopping and do your best karaoke imitation, tune in to 107.9 Hawaii’s Kool Gold from noon to 1 p.m., where I will be sharing with you my favorite top 12 Christmas songs of all time. I can guarantee you that there will be a few in there that you haven’t heard in a long time, and one or two that you have never heard before!