You don’t need a Christmas on TV to celebrate Christ’s birthday

As a child, did you define a “real” Christmas by what you saw on television? “The Donna Reed Show”? “Leave it to the beaver”? “The Three Stooges”? I did. But I lived in Hawaii, and no Christmas TV was held there.

The upper part of Molokai, an island in the Hawaiian Range, is where I grew up. My dad worked for the pineapple industry in Del Monte. Many people think of Hawaii as a “melting pot”. Allow me to share my reality of the melting pot. I lived in a plantation village where people of different races and cultures lived on the same plantation. As in other parts of the world where immigration has taken place, different groups have felt the need to maintain their security and identity. As a result, many groups excluded anyone who was not like them. This racial prejudice formed separate residential pockets. It was rare to see Filipinos in the Japanese part of the village.

Because most of the Filipinos were the least educated, they were hired as lowly pineapple pickers. The Filipinos, in their innocence, had accepted Del Monte’s contract requirement that women and children be left behind. The ensuing depression caused by loneliness in the Filipino area was widespread. The feelings of desolation were reflected in the dirty and smelly living conditions of most Filipinos. One of the permanent jokes endured by many illiterate Filipinos was the humiliating label “stupid”. It was my parents’ motivation that proved the label to be wrong. Members of the Laureta family were respected as intelligent and educated people.

But the plight of Filipinos has brought to light the reality: who could afford a televised Christmas? Who would even want a Christmas on TV? The frustration became even greater because Filipinos had little money to travel to the city of Honolulu on Oahu, where there was a greater chance of experiencing a televised Christmas.

Those who could afford Christmas trees awaited their order from the continental United States. The trees were expensive and it took a long time for them to reach Hawaii. By the time they arrived they were dry and brittle. Most of the needles had fallen off.

I wanted snow. According to Charlie Brown, the snow was perfect white balls. I really wanted snow. The meteorologist only mentioned the rain. My creativity solved the problem. I snuck into the bathroom and opened the bathroom closet where my dad’s shaving supplies were stored. It was there ! His can of shaving cream!

Rushing to the tree, I sprayed drops of shaving cream on the weakly needled branches. How absolutely pretty the snowy tree was! No one told me that the shaving cream drops would go away in 15 minutes. When the shaving cream collapsed into nothingness, I was inconsolable. What happened to my televised Christmas?

There was an annual plantation community Christmas party for all workers and their families. It took place in the only movie theater on the plantation. The party consisted of entertainment by the children, Christmas carols and carols. A visit from Santa Claus was often greeted by little crying and screaming children who had never seen a tall, bearded white man before. I was one of the children terrified of Santa Claus.

When I was 5, I had to take hula lessons. Taking hula lessons is like the mainlanders who take tap dancing or ballet. By the time the annual Christmas program arrived, my anxiety levels were beyond measure.

The hula teacher had asked each mother to get a flower to wear in the little dancer’s hair. My ambitious mother plucked a large wild hibiscus flower from the hedge. Because my hair was so straight, it took 12 bobby pins to keep the flower in my hair.

The cursed night has arrived. We went on stage. The curtains were drawn. The song “The Santa Claus Hula” started playing. We started to dance. Within two minutes, ants appeared, coming out of my hibiscus flower. As if that wasn’t enough, the ants started crawling all over my hair and face. I screamed. By shaking and turning, I tried to remove the flower. No success because 12 bobby pins held the flower in my hair very well. The situation has worsened. The audience laughed.

I chose to end my career by dancing the hula.

Not wanting to stop me from participating in the performing arts, my parents made me take Filipino dance lessons. This Christmas I had the opportunity to dance with an obnoxious boy. According to the choreography of this particular dance, each boy was to kneel among six girls, who were to dance around him, and at the right time, each girl would tap on their raised coconut. I hit him on his bare head with my coconut. Sometimes it is difficult to be a Christian at Christmas.

My mother was very creative. She was determined to make our Christmases memorable. She built a cardboard fireplace with red “bricks”. It was three-dimensional and the size of a real fireplace. Instead of a real fire, there were simulated flames made of gold and red leaf. Electrically operated, a circular piece of shiny metal rotated near the “fire” to give the impression of glowing flames. I loved this wintery Christmas effect. I always do, and I admire any home with a fireplace. To me, it reflects calm, warmth and a loving family. Sounds like a fairytale dream, doesn’t it?

That’s all I want. It makes me very happy that Jesus has a birthday, and it doesn’t have to be Christmas televised.

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