Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mele Kalīkimaka!

That’s “Merry Christmas” transliterated into Hawaiian, whose alphabet lacks the letters R (which is generally rendered as L) and S (usually given the letter K).

our tropical Nativity scene and baby Norfolk Pine tree

In addition to being a transliteration from the English “merry,” it’s fun to know that the word “mele” also has a real meaning in Hawaiian, which is “song” or “chant.” So I like to think of the traditional seasonal greeting here as having the additional sense of something like “Melodious Christmas!”

Celebrating the holidays in a different culture—and yes, the culture here is quite different from on the Mainland—is always a treat for me, especially when I get to experience different types of food. I’ve been getting a real kick out of the specials the local markets have been running during the past week, so I thought I’d share a few with you.

KTA is a local supermarket chain that particularly caters to the Japanese-American population here in Hilo (which comprises about 27% of the population, compared to Whites at 17%—see here). I love to wander down their Asian food aisles, examining items I’ve never heard of and bringing things home to try out.

KTA’s newspaper insert this week had the heading “Oriental Holiday Savings!” The sale items included baby clams and dried shrimp, kampyo (dried gourd strips), wafu yasai (frozen mixed vegetables), nishime kombu (dried kelp), mochi, miso, rice, shoyu, and of course various kinds of sake. It also included “Quick and Ono [delicious]” recipes, such as one for “New Year’s Ozoni Soup.” Here it is:
Ozoni is a traditional Japanese mochi soup eaten on New Year’s morning. It is believed that eating this soup will give you good fortune for the year ahead. The preparation and ingredients may vary as it has been handed down from generation to generation.

lotus roots, sliced
basic clear broth
1 can hokkigai clams, cut in ½
kamaboko, sliced
5 to 6 shiitake mushrooms, soaked and cut in ½
1 bunch mizuna, cut into ½ inch lengths

DIRECTIONS: Boil lotus roots in salt water (until tender) and drain. In a pot bring clear broth to a boil. Place lotus roots, hokkigai clams, kamaboko, mochi and shiitake mushroooms into a serving bowl, pour clear broth over ingredients, then top with mizuna. Enjoy hot. Happy New Year!

Of course KTA has non-Japanese food on sale for Christmas, too. For example, on the “Wrap up these Christmas Savings” page they offer Vienna Sausages (18 cans for $6.88—with coupon only), pork butt roast for only $1.47/lb., and of course there is the ubiquitous Spam (“musubi maker,” for only $1.69, limit 6 per coupon).

Longs Drugs on the other hand (yes, we still have Longs in Hawaii) is offering holiday deals on macadamia nuts, Hello Kitty water bottles and Band-Aids, crackseed, Vienna Sausages (though they’re 50 cents cheaper at KTA), and Locals brand rubber “slippahs” for $2.69.

my feet (wearing the Locals) with those of Maya Soetoro-Ng,
during a 2007 campaign stop for her brother, in Santa Cruz

The Christmas sales aren’t the only entertaining items in the newspaper this week, however. Today the Hawaii Tribune Herald (small world story: its editor is the son of our old Santa Cruz dentist, Paul Bock) issued a special “Holiday Aloha from all of us!” section. By far the best part of it is the “Keiki (kids) Letters to Santa.” Here is a sampling:

Dear Santa,
I have been good. Please bring me a dog, doll and octopus.
Love, Rhaya-Lee (grade K)

Dear Santa,
Can I have a new dresser because I have plenty stuff on my dresser. May I have a soft pencil and a fluffy pencil.
Love, Kilinane (grade 1)

Dear Santa,
I love Santa. I have a sore. Can you give me a present?
Love, Danna (grade 2)

Dear Santa,
I want army gear with weapons on top. They are fake. Also, a fake sword.
Love, Lancen (grade 2)

Dear Santa,
Fart Blaster, a heart for my sister, Azure.
Love, Alika (grade 2)

Dear Santa,
For Christmas please bring my dad more money because he takes me to every new movie in the theater, he works late at his job and sometimes when he works late, he wakes up in the afternoon.
Thank you Santa.
Love, Taimane (grade 3)

Dear Santa,
Thank you for the presents I got last year it was really fun playing with them. I’m sorry that you did not like the snack I put out last year. I ran out of cookies and milk. So I had to put out mochi and water. I thought you would like the snack.
This year for Christmas I will try to be good to my family. This year can I have a dog collar for my new puppy and some toys for my puppy? For Christmas can I have Just Dance 2014 for me and my family? If my parents get me Just Dance 2014 then can I have a ball for my puppy? Well I hope you have a good time checking your reindeer and making your presents.
Love, Hoku (grade 4)

Dear Santa,
My name is Jackson, but I like to be called Jack. I want an invisibility cloak and for it to rain candy (or can I just get candy). I want an invisibility cloak so that I can win hide-and-seek.
I do chores for my mom although I do not like chores. That is all I want for Christmas.
From, Jack, age 8

Dear Santa,
Before I get started, may I ask you a question? Do you have another wool coat? I’m asking because it’s kind of, no, it is chilly up at my place. Anyway, I think I should be on the nice list because I help my tutu [grandmother] forget about her stress and I have to tend my chickens. You might think it’s easy, but it’s not. I step in poop! I help my uncle with the dog and his poop is worse! So that’s why I think I should be on the nice list. I almost forgot. May I please have three SECRET wishes?
Sincerely, Jayden, age 9
P.S. It’s ok if you don’t get them. I think I have a good chance of getting Skylanders Swap Force.

Dear Santa,
Christmas is my most favorite holiday in the world because you bring me presents every year no matter what. This year, instead of those expensive things I ask for every single year, I would like to ask for something else. I would like an Instagram account. It is a website similar to Facebook. I feel I should be on your “nice” list because of what happened on November 19, 2013. My dad caught a mouse. He had different options of letting the mouse drown or letting it go far away. I chose to let the mouse loose because I felt the mouse was “kawaisou” (poor thing). So, that’s exactly what I did. If that isn’t enough information to be on the “nice” list, read this. I was at the indoor tennis stadium playing this game where you aim at boxes to win prizes. My mom bought my sister and me each three tickets. (Three tickets are three shots. It cost $5.00 for three tickets.) I used all my tickets and my mom asked if I wanted more tickets. I said no because my mom is trying to save money so we can go to Florida or something. I wanted to help my mom reach her goal. Thank you very much for all the gifts you have given me.
Yours truly, Lisa, age 9
P.S. I know how to play a few songs with the ukelele you gave me two years ago.
P.P.S. Sorry, but I still don’t know how to play golf with the golf kit you gave me last year. (I don’t have any time in my schedule.)
[Ed. note—this gal should really go to law school]

Other notable gifts requested from Santa: hot dog buns, tofu, Vienna sausages, and “string beans and spam.” I no kid you, brah.

So, I hope you all get every one of your Christmas wishes, be they Just Dance 2014, Spam musubi, a new puppy, or just a day off work hangin’ with family and friends!

I leave you with a close-up photo of the sunset a few nights ago. Yes, that was the real color.

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