By THE ENTHUSIAST
"Mele Kalikimaka" author R. Alex Anderson, who was born and raised in Hawaii, attended the Punahou School in Honolulu and wrote the school fight song while he was a student there. Rumors that the line "That’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway" originally referred to the sacking of a visiting quarterback could not be confirmed as of press time.
Anderson often played golf with Bing Crosby when he came through Honolulu, and played "Mele Kalikimaka" for him during one of his visits. Bing was so taken by the tune that he recorded it with the Andrews Sisters in 1950 – as a surprise for his golfing buddy!
Silver & Gold
Having Bing Crosby record your song on a whim is roughly akin to having King Midas show up one day and walk through your house touching everything he can get this mitts on. The Anderson family continues to receive royalties right up to this day. "Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright," indeed.
Lost In Translation
"Mele Kalikimaka" is actually about as accurate a translation of "Merry Christmas" as you’re likely to get in a language with only eight consonants.
"Mele Kalikimaka" is an exemplar of a genre Hawaiians call hapa haole, or "half foreign" – not so much dunning cultural appropriation as acknowledging cultural confluence. And that, in short, is Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas to you.
Number seven in a series.
7 December 2020
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.