Tropical Gardening: Mele Kalikimaka and aloha go hand in hand

  • Courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE Use your imagination decorating with creative holiday flower arrangements to brighten your home on these short winter days.

No matter how crazy and chaotic 2020 was, it seems the Christmas spirit in Hawaii continued all year thanks to the constant reminder that we choose to live aloha.

The basic teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and other spiritual leaders all come together here in our islands. Diversity is mostly respected. Faith, hope and love are emphasized in Judeo Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu ethics.

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This is the essence of living aloha.

Of course there are big differences when it come to the European and North American traditional ideas of Christmas, with snow, Santa Claus and presents. In Hawaii, we often see the same activities that we might see in July. The surf and beaches are still the big attractions. Folks might even take the holidays to catch up on gardening projects.

Some malihini might miss the snow and the bite of frost in the air. They miss the cold, dark days, when all life is dormant. They might long for the coziness of an open fireplace and the smell of turkey, ham or roast beef cooking in the kitchen. This year, the holidays are quite different. We will miss all the big party celebrations and family dinners, but being careful now to avoid the spreading of COVID-19 will give us the opportunity to look toward better times.

We are still facing dark days, but this has given us time to think about what is important during this particular holiday season. Besides, most of the customs now associated with Christmas have little to do with the real meaning.

In fact, the very day we celebrate is probably not the actual birthdate of Christ. In Europe, this particular date was celebrated long before Christ was born. The celebration was associated with the winter solstice, or the shortest day of the year, and the fact that the days were getting longer.

Most of the customs now associated with Christmas go back thousands of years, when the people worshipped pagan gods.

The use of the Christmas trees is thought to have originated in Germany. During the 8th century, a missionary, St. Boniface, was trying to stamp out the rite of sacrificing people to the oak tree. He led these tree-worshipping people into the forest in the dead of winter to show them the only tree with no cursing stain of blood upon it. This was the evergreen fir, which lives and grows when earth is darkest. He showed them that the tree pointed upward toward the Christ Child. He told them to take this tree into their homes as a symbol of their newfound faith.

Now let’s look at a couple of other plants we associate with the special holiday.

The holly for thousands of years has had all manner of mystical charms and qualities attributed to it. The use of holly at Christmas was likely to have come from the Teutonic custom of hanging holly in their houses. They did this so the tree sprites might have a warm, safe shelter from winter storms.

The mistletoe originally had nothing to do with Christmas. It was considered sacred by those same tree worshippers because it grew on oaks. To this day in Europe amulets and rings of mistletoe are worn as an antidote against sickness.

Since we can’t plant mistletoe over the threshold here, we might find joy in gardening. Yuletide gardening will be the top activity for many folks through the holidays, so even if you live in a condo you can turn your attention to indoor plantings and holiday decorations. That last-minute gift for someone you love can be a living gift for the home or garden.

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Stop by a local nursery or garden centers for some creative ideas.

This has been a challenging year, but it is time to focus on 2021 with hope, faith and aloha. Remember the birth of Jesus and the light he brought to a world that was much worse than ours today.

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