Mele Kalikimaka to everyone in Maui County. We’d all hoped this Christmas would signal the return to our normal pre-pandemic lives, but the omicron variant had other plans.
These past several months have been difficult for most of us. COVID-19 has brought disease, death and disruption. It also had side effects of isolation, fear, anger and mistrust. Add supply chain disruptions, a shortage of workers, the rising cost of living, and we can understand why anxiety and depression are on the rise.
The future seems less certain than during any other time in our lifetime. Since March of 2020, virtually everyone has experienced some kind of a loss, whether the loss of a loved one, a job, financial security, personal freedom, new opportunities, longstanding relationships or even personal dreams. We yearn for a sense of safety and predictability, and as the pandemic drags on, some are losing hope for a better tomorrow.
Today is Christmas Day and we need this day more than ever. Whatever your faith, or if you have no religious faith at all, we can still find comfort and joy in our traditions, whatever they may be.
Here on Maui, we don’t dream of a White Christmas because it snows on Haleakala just once every two or three years, and almost never on Christmas. We don’t roast chestnuts, ride horse-drawn sleighs and there are few chimneys for Santa to come down. But we love Hawaii’s own unique Christmas traditions.
Christmas in Hawaii means rows of rubber slippers parked on a front porch, holiday songs accompanied by ukulele and guitar and backyard paper-covered tables adorned with ti leaves and red ginger. Hawaiian food and a roast turkey are surrounded by dishes gifted to us by the Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean and Portuguese immigrants who shaped our island culture. And everyone goes home with a big plate of foil-covered leftovers to enjoy the next day. These simple traditions link us to our past and will carry us into our future.
During difficult times, it helps to remember past crises that were ultimately resolved. The people of Hawaii have survived epidemics of measles, smallpox, Hansen’s disease and tuberculosis. We will survive COVID-19 as well. These islands have endured hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, flash floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and wildfires. This land will endure climate change as well. Our economy made it through the Great Depression, World War II, the loss of our plantations, the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the great recession of 2008. Our economy will make it through this too. We must never lose hope and remember that these times too shall pass.
Hope means trusting in the possibility that something positive will come out of something negative. Today is Christmas Day; let’s put our minds and hearts on hope instead of fear.
Just for today, turn off the TV news, ignore your social media feed and don’t complain about anything. Play some joyous Christmas music, count your blessings and enjoy the peace and beauty of Maui Nei.
To remain calm and carry on is a living demonstration of hope. Hopefulness inspires us to do better and to be better. Today’s hope is the most important ingredient for a much better tomorrow.
Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see there is light despite all of the darkness.” Times may look dark, but have no fear because Christmas is the season of light. The twinkling lights that illuminate our homes and Christmas trees remind us that darkness is always temporary.
The lyrics of the famous Hawaii holiday song, “Mele Kalikimaka,” say, “Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright, the sun to shine by day and all the stars at night.” Here in Hawaii, we are blessed by the light, during the day and night. May that ever-present light spark hope in our hearts and in our lives.
On behalf of my wife Joycelyn and our entire ‘ohana, Merry Christmas to all.
* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column alternates with “Council’s 3 Minutes” every other weekend.