Hawaii, land of many holidays

After months of staying at home because of the pandemic, it seems pupule to write about holidays, but with many of us getting vaccinated, we’ll soon be back on track, right?

So, here’s to holidays, especially since we recently celebrated a few big ones, at least in some parts of the world.

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When I lived in Seattle, I felt shortchanged because I could count on two hands the number of Washington state holidays. But here in Hawaii, we also get time off for Kuhio Day, Good Friday, Kamehameha Day, Statehood Day and Election Day.

An island holiday that surprised Seattle friends is one that just passed, Good Friday.

As college teachers ever mindful of religious interference in American public life, my colleagues wondered how this Christian holy day could be sanctioned by the government. I augmented their indignation by adding that not only is Good Friday a state holiday in Hawaii, but when I was in public elementary school in Hilo, we started the day with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Lord’s Prayer, the Protestant version.

Mouths gaped and eyes bulged.

I elaborated.

“Even though we Catholics were instructed to not pray like the Protestants, as 7-year-olds, we felt we had to, so each school day started with a venial sin. Some of my classmates weren’t even Christian, but there we all were, hands clasped and head bowed … ‘for thine is the kingdom’ … .” (Sigh.)

Friends were aghast.

They were consoled that public school students in the islands no longer recite the Our Father but surprised that Good Friday is still on the state official holiday calendar.

“And I’m all for it!” I loudly proclaimed.

They scowled, questioning my commitment to religious freedom.

I assured them that despite stereotypes of everyone chugging brewskis half-naked on a beach, there are concerned activists in these islands, and in 1987 a group of taxpaying protesters decided to do something about this Good Friday holiday nonsense. They sued the state, citing the Establishment Clause which prohibits the government from favoring a religion.

But they lost.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii determined that the Good Friday holiday is for workers to have a day off, not for religious activities.

Whoa! I bet Boston missionaries who arrived in 1820 to save souls were flipping like pancakes in their graves. Little did they know that when a religion gets transplanted thousands of miles from home, it takes on a life of its own.

And as I told Seattle friends, only a babooze protests a day off. But the Good Friday court ruling might also explain Hawaii’s ainokea attitude toward various religious beliefs.

While some of us obeyed parents who insisted on fasting and praying in dark churches on that holy Friday, others were happily scarfing down red hot dogs at Onekahakaha Beach Park.

What better way to appreciate another religion than to know about some of its rituals and then have a day off for it?

My Seattle educator-friends were starting to see the light.

How about we lobby for more religious holidays so we can learn about different belief systems? For those who like to protest, I propose picketing state lawmakers to designate an official holiday for Passover, Buddha’s Birthday, Ramadan, Chinese New Year and others.

For even more education, let’s bring back Columbus Day but rename it Polynesian Navigators’ Day!

Activists can go forth and spread the good word about Hawaii’s common-sense approach to teaching tolerance.

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Then, maybe the rest of the world can stop fighting.

Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at rainysideview@gmail.com. Her column appears every other Monday.

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