Mele Kalikimaka: An Origin Story

Posted by Evan Harlow R(S) 82003 on Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 at 7:34am.

Hawaii's Way to Say Merry Christmas To You

Mele Kalikimaka Santa Claus Maui

Featured in many of our favorite Christmas movies, the song "Mele Kalikimaka", made famous by Bing Crosby, has a special place on our Christmas playlists, but do you know the meaning of this song or how the name originated? Continue reading to learn more about this island greeting.

When we envision a Hawaiian Christmas it looks a lot different than celebrations across much of the US. Going to the beach for Christmas is a unique way to spend the holiday. Even if you're not spending the holidays in Hawaii, you may find yourself singing along to Mele Kalikimaka at some point during the season.

In traditional Hawaiian culture, this time of the year is known as Makahiki season which is the beginning of the Hawaiian lunar year. Makahiki season begins with the rising of the constellation Makalii and the season is dedicated to the god of fertility, agriculture, and peace, Lonoikamakahiki.

With the colonization of Hawaii came new traditions such as Christmas which in many ways represents similar values of abundance and peace. The phrase Mele Kalikimaka began as a way of translating Merry Christmas into the Hawaiian language and it was made popular by the famous Bing Crosby recording we all love.

Penned by R. Alex Anderson in 1949, the lyrics of this island Christmas song describe a festive, warm holiday in a lush, sunny Hawaiian setting. Several famous artists have recorded this upbeat melody over the years as well.

Mele Kalikimaka Meaning "Merry Christmas"

Hawaii Christmas

The first recorded appearance of the expression "Mele Kalikimaka" in print occurred well over a century ago. In 1904, the Hawaiian language newspaper Ka Nupepa Kuokoa used this term in headlines for the first time. Published between 1861 and 1927, the publication sometimes translated English words into the Hawaiian language.

Since the Hawaiian language does not use the sounds /r/ or /s/, translators frequently substitute an "L" for an "R," and an "S" for a "K." The term "Merry Christmas" in Hawaiian becomes "Mele Kalikimaka," a cheerful island greeting.

Recording a Uniquely Hawaiian Christmas Song

Many years later, the songwriter R. Alex Anderson found inspiration for the lyrics of the song Mele Kalikimaka from a casual remark. A stenographer in his office lamented the absence of a Christmas carol that was specifically for Hawaii. He then went on to create both the lyrics and the melody during 1949.

The following year, crooner Bing Crosby first recorded Mele Kalikimaka with The Andrews Sister for Decca Records. The tune would later form part of a comprehensive Merry Christmas Album of Bing Crosby numbers released during 1955. Other artists would eventually record this song, too, including Jimmy Buffett.

Understanding the Mele Kalikimaka Meaning of Merry Christmas

Christmas Hawaii

A few years ago, The Atlantic Magazine explored the lyrics of Mele Kalikimaka in some depth calling it the "Anti-Let It Snow. The piece noted interesting contrasts between the song and other widely popular carols in the United States.

While the vast majority of beloved Christmas songs describe a snowy, cold landscape during winter, Mele Kalikimaka praises the beauty of the holiday in a tropical setting. It presents a much sunnier, warmer locale in appealing terms. Set to the beat of a ukulele, the lyrics offer both a welcoming "aloha" greeting and a compelling, uniquely Hawaiian, image of this happy celebration!

A Pleasant Place to Spend The Holiday Season

Today, songs like Mele Kalikimaka infuse December with a joyful reminder of the universal nature of the Christmas season. Spending Christmas in Hawaii appeals to many people. During this festive time of year, the gift of a vacation to the lovely Island of Maui delights households living in other places.

Visitors and full-time residents alike welcome the prospect of spending happy hours enjoying the fine sand beaches of South Maui or West Maui. They build happy memories visiting resorts, watching spectacular sunsets, and admiring sparkling Pacific Ocean vistas. Spending the Christmas season in Maui is certainly something to be remembered. 

Spend the Holidays on Holiday

Christmas on Maui

Many interesting activities await people who spend the holiday season in Maui. At this special time of year, typical temperatures are slightly milder than during the hottest times of the year in the summer. The thermometer can even drop into 60-degree Fahrenheit ranges after dark even if you're staying at a condo in Kihei!

Enjoy leisure pursuits unavailable in many other places during December. Swimming, snorkeling, surfing, sunbathing, playing tennis, golfing, bicycling, hiking, and using zip lines attract enthusiasts. There are also a number of events and seasonal adventures available during this time of the year.

Maui Realtor

Fun Things to do For Christmas on Maui

Some of the most popular activities during the winter season reflect the spirit of Mele Kalikimaka. The recent pandemic has temporarily modified some celebrations, but it cannot overshadow the joyful nature of the holiday. In Lahaina, the lighting of the Banyan Tree is one of the first signs of the season. 

This treasured landmark provides a festive reminder of Christmas in West Maui. Bright lights wrapped around the trunk and off-shooting roots transform the site into a cheerful, illuminated wonderland after dark. People sometimes attend festive holiday luau parties at beaches during this time of year. If you're staying on West Maui, here are a few of our favorite places to consider.

You'll also notice the Santa Claus display in Ka'anapali along the parkway between the golf courses. Shopping for gifts at Whalers Village, the Shops at Wailea, and other distinctive retail outlets delight many households.

Enjoy Whale Watching During The Holidays

Whale Watch Maui

Between November and late April, pods of North Pacific Humpback whales migrate through the warm waters off the coast of Maui. Observing these magnificent creatures during their journey interests numerous people. At this time of year, Maui whale watching excursions frequently allow participants close contact with marine life.

Choice locations along the western coast of Maui provide vantage points for watching whales offshore, too. This popular winter pastime gives opportunities for photographers to capture impressive images of the mighty Humpbacks.

Mele Kalikimaka Lyrics

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 that Christmas will be green and bright

The sun will shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas to you
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 that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun will shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas to you
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun will shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas to you
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 that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun will shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas,
A very Merry Christmas, a very, very, very Merry Merry Christmas to you

A Special Treat For The Golfers in Your Family!

Kapalua Golf Coast

People searching for a unique gift to share with a loved one spending Christmas in Hawaii might consider hitting the links. Maui boasts a number of acclaimed golf courses, including greens at the resorts in Wailea, Ka'anapali, and Kapalua. Early in January, the first event on the PGA calendar occurs at the Kapalua Plantation Course in West Maui.

Some of the most talented golfers in the previous year's PGA Tour compete with one another during the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Spectators from around the world look forward to this exciting competition.

Celebrate a Joyful Holiday Season!

If you're not able to be on Maui this holiday season, we hope that the island spirit and this island greeting finds you well and we look forward to having you back as soon as you can make it. From all of us at Maui Elite Property, Mele Kalikimaka!

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Evan Harlow Maui

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