Makahiki, yule and gift giving

9 11 2009

With the winter holiday season upon us, most families are starting to get into the spirit. The signs include that real or imagined cold snap on Halloween night, slick merchandising catalogs overflowing from our mailboxes, store mark downs everywhere, and the lure of local craft fairs and festive events.

Conversations now include, “What are you doing for (fill in the holiday)?” and newspaper features carry tips on how to remain stress free. We want to remember family and friends and hope no one is left alone. As families extend generationally, geographically, and by marriage, there can be many decisions to make.

DH and I have a couple of philosophic ideas and old-fashioned traditions that give us a sense of peace. They link to our respective roots—Hawaiian Islands for me and Pennsylvania (Delaware County) for him.

One is to acknowledge and be mindful of the Hawaiian Makahiki season, roughly from mid-November through January (exact dates depend on the moon). The planting season is over, work is pau (finished), and warring ceases. It is the time of the god Lono.

The best of the harvest is dedicated to Lono in the form of ho‘okupu (offerings). The people give thanks, relax, socialize, play outdoor games, and generally enjoy themselves. No stress. It’s officially okay to play!

The other is adopted from Winterthur, Delaware, not far from DH’s birthplace. As tourists we visited Winterthur, a museum and the former country estate of Henry Francis du Pont. During his life H. F. du Pont collected whole room interiors of various periods, not to mention whole street fronts, and installed them in his mansion.

The museum decorates the rooms of this big house for Yuletide, and visitors can tour them around the same months of Makahiki in Hawaii. The holiday decor matches the period style of each different room. It’s educational and very festive.

When we visited, our favorite room showed how du Pont’s own family celebrated in the first half of the 20th century. The story was told that Yuletide, the time around the Winter solstice, was a time to visit and entertain friends, to rest and to celebrate a successful harvest. Children were seen but not heard.

Decorations consisted of a small table-top evergreen—adorned simply with cookies, candles and strands of popcorn and cranberries—that was set atop a pie crust table. Gifts were exchanged among immediate family members only and placed in a basket for each person. If the children behaved well, they could have the cookies!

We liked the idea so well that we brought home a furniture piece similar to a pie crust table for ourselves, in a nod to the East Coast style and DH’s regional heritage. Each year we hang on a small tree the wooden ornaments crafted by DH’s parents for their first granddaughter on her first Christmas.

At a lost for that special gift?

FOR YULE or any other special occasion such as a wedding, a big birthday, an anniversary, or a move to a new home, do consider giving a painting. Yes, a painting! An original oil painting is special and unique, so unexpected, so memorable. It is a one-of-a-kind piece of art, it’s durable, and it can provide years of long-lasting enjoyment. Support the Native Hawaiian artist! I can work with you now on a selection and a payment plan, if necessary. I will be traveling and away from the studio for a good part of December, so if you are at all interested, please contact me. Click on PAINTINGS in the menu bar to see the images. I’ll be installing additional pieces in the next few days too. Thank you!

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke

References:

In years past I have participated in the Makahiki observance on Kahoolawe island. You may read about Makahiki on the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana website:

http://www.kahoolawe.org/home/?page_id=7

For more about Winterthur and the du Ponts, click on this link:

http://www.winterthur.org/about/about.asp

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