Story by Kathy Collins | Illustration by Matt Foster
Listen to Tita’s island Thanksgiving column read aloud in pidgin:
Small kid time, right aftah Halloween, our firs’, secon’, an’ t’ird grade teachahs would break out da orange an’ brown construction pepa, an’ da Elmah’s Glue, an’ da scissors wit’ da round ends so we no can hurt ourselves, an’ fo’ da nex’ t’ree weeks, we would do T’anksgiving crafts. We trace our handprints fo’ draw turkeys, we cut out autumn leaves an’ pin ‘em to da bulletin board, we make Pilgrim hats an’ Indjun headbands, an’ den we ack out da firs’ I.
Da las’ day of school, da day befo’ T’anksgiving Day, da cafeteria cook roas’ turkey wit’ gravy, mash potato, cream corn or canned green beans, candied yams, an’ one pumpkin square fo’ dassert. Den da nex’ day at home, we eat da same exack t’ing fo’ T’anksgiving dinnah. Me, I nevah mind da turkey two days in a row, ‘cause dat was da only time all year we get fo’ eat turkey. Aftah da turkey san’wiches an’ da turkey casserole an’ da turkey soup was all pau, couple, t’ree days laydah, we go back to our regulah food like fish an’ poi or Spam an’ rice.
Back den, we used to celabrate T’anksgiving like we was on da mainland, no even cook rice fo’ dinnah. Ev’rybody try ack like da Waltons on TV. Pass da stuffing, John-Boy . . . I mean, Junior Boy. I nevah undastand how come. All da oddah big holladays had somet’ing fo’ localize ‘em: we sing Christmas carols in Hawaiian, blow Chinese firecrackahs on New Year’s, make flower leis fo’ Memorial Day, go Makawao Rodeo on Fourth of July weekend. Only T’anksgiving was full-on haole style.
Nowadays, we put da local touch on T’anksgiving, but mos’ times, we only talkin’ about da food. We make kalua turkey and laulau, purple Okinawan sweet potato, maybe haupia pie fo’ dassert. But, you know, if you like do T’anksgiving Hawaiian style fo’ real kine, you gotta go alla way back to da olden days, when da ancient Hawaiians had one whole season fo’ give t’anks.
Da Makahiki was dedacated to da god Lono; he da one was in charge of agricultcha an’ harvest. So da Hawaiians would give t’anks to Lono wit’ offerings of food an’ kapa (barkcloth) an’ woven mats, an’ dey would pray to him fo’ one noddah good year of crops. Da season of t’anks would start aroun’ late Octobah or early Novembah, when da constellation called Na Huihui o Makali‘i, or Makali‘i fo’ short, would firs’ show up on da horizon. Da haoles call ‘em da Pleiades, or da Seven Sistahs. By da time da Makali‘i come out, da harvest was pau, an’ da Hawaiians was ready fo’ rest and recharge.
Fo’ da nex’ four months, farming, fishing, an’ war was kapu. Was time fo’ peace an’ parties. Ev’ry island had big celabrations wit’ hula an’ sports contests like boxing an’ wrestling, surfing an’ swimming, holua (sled) an’ canoe races, or ‘ulu maika (bowling. Ev’rybody, from da ali‘i (chiefs) to da maka‘ainana (regulah folks), even da kids, could play. Da sports an’ games helped fo’ keep people in good shape, physically an’ mentally. Da religious ceremonies an’ feasts helped fo’ keep dem focused on spiritual renewal. By da time Makahiki pau, ev’rybody ready fo’ go back, work hard, fo’ da res’ a da year.
I t’ink da Hawaiians had da right idea. No war, no work fo’ four months. If I had one work schedule li’dat, I would be counting my blessings all year long, not jus’ on one day.